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2. Travels In Australia: Volume II




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1. Chapter I.

Reflections on our difficulties—Commence the Retreat—Eyre's Creek—Pass the native well—Recross the Stony Desert—Find another well without water—Natives—Successful fishing—Value of sheep—Decide on a retreat—Propose that Mr.Browne should leave—His refusal to desert the party—Mr.browne's decision—Prepare to leave the camp—Remarks on the climate—Again leave the Depôt—Singular explosion—Discover a large creek—Proceed to the north—Recurrence of sand ridges—Salt water lake—Again strike the Stony Desert—Attempt to cross it.

TO that man who is really earnest in the performance of his duty to the last, and who has set his heart on the accomplishment of a great object, the attainment of which would place his name high up in the roll of Fame; to him who had well nigh reached the topmost step of the ladder, and whose hand had all but grasped the pinnacle, the necessity must be great, and the struggle of feeling severe, that forces him to bear back, and abandon his task.

Let any man lay the map of Australia before him, and regard the blank upon its surface, and then let me ask him if it would not be an honourable achievement to be the first to place foot in its centre.




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Men of undoubted perseverance and energy in vain had tried to work their way to that distant and shrouded spot. A veil hung over Central Australia that could neither be pierced or raised. Girt round about by deserts, it almost appeared as if Nature had intentionally closed it upon civilized man, that she might have one domain on the earth's wide field over which the savage might roam in freedom.

I had traced down almost every inland river of the continent, and had followed their courses for hundreds of miles, but, they had not led me to its central regions. I had run the Castlereagh, the Macquarie, the Lachlan, the Murrumbidgee, the Hume, the Darling, and the Murray down to their respective terminations, but beyond them I had not passed—yet—I looked upon Central Australia as a legitimate field, to explore which no man had a greater claim than myself, and the first wish of my heart was to close my services in the cause of Geography by dispelling the mists that hung over it.

True it is that my friend Eyre had penetrated high up to the north of Mount Arden, and there can be no doubt but that his ardent and chivalrous spirit would have carried him far beyond the point he attained, if he had not met unconquerable difficulties. I thought that a cooler and more leisurely progress would enable me to feel my way into a country, whose inhospitable character developed itself more the more it was penetrated. I had adopted certain opinions, the correctness of which I was anxious to


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test, and I thought the investigations I desired to make, were not only worthy the pursuit of private ambition, but deserving the attention of Her Majesty's Government. With these feelings I could not but be grateful to Lord Stanley, for having entertained my proposition, and given me an opportunity to distinguish myself. It is not because his Lordship is no longer at the head of the Colonial Office, that I should refrain from making my acknowledgments to him, and expressing the sense I entertain of the obligation under which he has laid me. It so happened that the course pointed out to me by Lord Stanley, and that in which I desired to go, were the same, and I had hoped that in following up my instructions, I should ultimately have gained the spot I so ardently desired to reach, and to have left the flag of my native country flying over it.

The feelings then with which I returned to the creek after the failure of our last attempt to penetrate to the north may well be imagined. I returned to it, as I have said, with perhaps a sullen determination to stand out the drought; but, on calm reflection, I found that I could not do so. I could not indeed hide from myself that in the course of a few days my retreat to the Depôt would unavoidably be cut off if rain should not fall. Looking to the chance of our being delayed until our provisions should be consumed, and to the fact that we could not expect to get back to the Depôt in less than


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three weeks, and that I could not hope for any amendment either in Mr. Browne or my men, so long as they were confined to the scanty diet we then had. I determined on my return to the Park, thence to take out fresh hands, and to make another attempt to penetrate across the Desert in some other direction; but, as this measure, like our detention at the Depôt, would involve a great loss of time, I proposed to myself again to divide the party, and to send Mr. Browne home with all the men, except Mr. Stuart and two others. I saw no objection to such a course, and certainly did not anticipate any opposition to it on the part of my companion. I resolved then, with a due regard to his state, to retrace my steps with all possible expedition; and, accordingly, directed that everything should be prepared for our retreat on the morning of the 14th, for the sky had cleared, and all prospect of rain had again vanished. Although we were here so close to the Tropic, the climate was not oppressive. The general temperature after noon was 84°, the morning 46°. The prevailing wind was from S.S.E. to E.S.E. and it was invariably cold; at least we felt it so, and I regretted to observe, that in Mr. Browne's case it caused a renewed attack of violent pains in the muscles and joints, from which he had before been somewhat free. It is also remarkable, that up to this distant point, no material change had taken place in the character of the vegetation; with the exception of the few trees and plants I have mentioned


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the herbage of these sterile regions, and of the Darling were essentially the same, only with this difference, that here they were all more or less stunted, whereas, in the month of October, when we passed up the Darling, they were only just flowering, now in the month of September they had ripened their seed.

Before we commenced our journey back to the Depôt, I named this “Eyre's Creek.” No doubt it is an important feature in the country where it exists. Like the other creeks, however, it rises in plains, and either terminates in such or falls into the Stony Desert. There can be no doubt, however, that to any one desiring to cross the continent to the north, Eyre's Creek would afford great facilities; and if the traveller happened fortunately to arrive on it at a favourable moment he would have every chance of success.

For twelve miles below the salt lagoon there is not a blade of grass either in the bed of the creek or on the neighbouring flats, the soil of both being a stiff cold clay. We passed this ungenial line, therefore, and encamped near a fine pool of water, where both our own wants and those of our horses, as far as feed and water went, were abundantly supplied.

In going along one of the flats, before we discovered the creek, Mr. Browne and I had chased a Dipus into a hollow log, and there secured it. This pretty animal we put into a box; but as it appeared


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to eat but little grass, we gave it some small birds, which it always devoured at night. Our dogs had killed one on the banks of the Darling, but had so mutilated it, that we could not preserve it. We hoped, however, to keep this animal alive, and up to the present time there was every chance of our doing so. It was an exceedingly pretty animal, of a light grey colour, having a long tail, feathered at the end, insectivorous, and not marsupial. On the 16th we turned from the creek to the south, and passed down the long flat up which we had previously come. On the following day we passed several of the hollows scraped by the natives, and in one of them found a little water, that must have accumulated in it from the drizzly showers that fell on the night of the 8th, and which might have been heavier here than with us. On the 19th we arrived at the creek where Flood's horse was lost, but could not make out any track to betray that he had been to water, and as there was not enough remaining in the pond for our use, we crossed the plain, over which we had had so much difficulty in travelling, and halted for a short time at the native well, out of which numbers of birds flew as we approached. From the Box-tree Forest we pushed on down the polygonum flat, where we had seen the native woman who had secreted herself in the bush. A whole family was now in the same place, but an old man only approached us. We were, indeed, passing, when he called to us, expressly for the purpose of telling us that the horse


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(Flood's) had gone away to the eastward. This native came out of his way, and evidently under considerable alarm, to tell us this, and to point out the direction in which he had gone, Our stock of presents being pretty nearly exhausted, Mr. Browne, with his characteristic good nature, gave him a striped handkerchief, with which he was much pleased. As it was evident the poor horse had kept along the edge of the Desert, and as he was a wandering brute, not caring for companions, it was uncertain to what distance he had rambled, I did not, therefore, lose time by attempting to recover him. We were all of us sure that he would not face the Stony Desert, but he may still be alive, and wandering over that sterile country. We stopped for the night on the long channel near the sandy rise where we had before rested, about ten miles short of our camp, and the trees on the muddy plain; and having effected our passage across that plain and the Stony Desert, over which it was with extreme difficulty that we kept our track, found ourselves on the 22nd, in the little grassy valley, from which we had entered upon it; little water was remaining, however, at the place where we had then stopped, so that I sent over to the sequestered spot Lewis had discovered, but the water there had entirely disappeared. Flood managed to shoot a couple of ducks (Teal), of which there were four or five that flew away to the south-east. These two birds were, I may truly say, a God-send, and I beg to assure the reader they were uncommonly good.




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From this valley we had to cross the heavy sand ridges which had so fatigued our horses before, and I hardly expected we should find water nearer than the Fish Pond. We therefore started early to get over the distance as soon as possible, and, as on the outward journey, had a most severe task of it. The ridges were certainly most formidable, although they were not of such size as those from which we had retreated. At six miles we crossed the salt lagoon, and late in the afternoon descended to the box-tree forest before mentioned, having the grassy plains now upon the left-hand side. The sandy ridges overlooked these plains, so that in riding along we noticed some natives, seven in number, collecting grass seeds upon them, on which alone, it appears to me, they subsist at this season of the year. However, as soon as they saw us, they all ran away in more than usual alarm, perhaps from the recollection of our misunderstanding with Mr. Popinjay. Their presence, however, assured us that there must be water somewhere about, and as on entering the plain, more to the west than before, we struck on a track, I directed Mr. Browne to run it down, who, at about half-a-mile, came to a large well similar to that in the creek on the other side of the Stony Desert, but not of the same dimensions. We had lost sight of him for some little time, when suddenly his horse made his appearance without a rider, and caused me great anxiety for the moment, for my mind immediately reverted to our sulky friend, and my fears were at once raised


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that my young companion had been speared; riding on, therefore, I came at length to the well, down which, to my inexpressible relief, I saw Mr. Browne, who was examining it, and who came out on my calling to him. There was not sufficient water to render it worth our while to stop; but the well being nine feet deep, shewed the succession of strata as follows: four feet of good alluvial soil; three feet of white clay; and two feet of sea sand.

I should perhaps have been more particular in the description of our interview with the old man and his family on the northern side of the earthy plain. As I have stated, he called out to us, and in order to discover what he wanted, I held Mr. Browne's horse, while he dismounted and went to him. The old native would not, however, sit down, but pointed to the S.E. as the direction in which, as far as we could understand, the horse, “cadli” (dog), as he called him, the only large four-legged brute of which he knew any thing, had gone. The poor fellow cried, and the tears rolled down his cheeks when he first met Mr. Browne, and the women chanted a most melancholy air during the time we remained, to keep the evil spirits off, I suppose; but they had nothing to fear from us, if they could only have known it. This confusion of tongues is a sad difficulty in travelling the wilds of Australia. Both the old man and the women wanted the two front teeth of the upper jaw, and as the former had worn his down almost to a level with his gums like an old horse, he looked sadly disfigured.




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We halted about three miles short of the place at which we had before stopped, but as Joseph followed some pigeons to a clump of trees across the plain at about a mile distance, and there found a small pond of water, we moved over to it, and remained stationary on the following day to rest our wearied animals.

The 24th again saw us at the Fish Pond, where Mr. Browne again exhibited his skill in the gentle craft, and caught a good dish of the finny tribe. The mystery as to how these fish could have got into so isolated a spot, was not yet cleared up, and I was really puzzled on the subject.

On the 27th, as we were crossing the country between the creeks, some natives came in from the north and called out to us, in consequence of which Mr. Browne and I rode up to them. They were in a sad state of suffering from the want of water; their lips cracked, and their tongues swelled. They had evidently lingered at some place or other, until all the water, intermediate between them and the creeks had dried up. The little water we had was not sufficient to allay their thirst, so they left us, and at a sharp trot disappeared over the sand hill.

On the 29th our journey over the sandy ridges was very distressing. They appeared to me to be much more numerous, and the valleys between them much more sandy than when we first passed over them, and were thickly covered with spinifex, although grass was also tolerably abundant in the flats. At this stage of our journey, I was


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the only one of the party who was not ill; Mr. Browne and all the men were suffering, added to which, the men were fairly knocked up. Their labours were now, however, drawing to a close, and I was only too thankful, that I retained my strength.

We had crossed the first or Strzelecki's Creek on the 29th, and had halted that night without water. During it some of the horses broke loose and wandered back; but Flood and Joseph soon overtook and brought them back. We should have had a distance of 85 miles to travel without water, but fortunately the precaution we had taken of digging wells in going out, insured us a supply in one of them, so that our return over this last long and dry tract of country was comparatively light, and we gained the Park and joined Mr. Stuart at the stockade on the evening of the 2nd of October, after an absence of seven weeks, during which we had ridden more than 800 miles. Had it not been for the precaution of digging these wells, I do not think that two or three of the horses would have reached their journey's end. We only found water in one, it is true, but that one was of the most essential service, inasmuch as it saved several of our animals; and this is a point, I hope future travellers in such a country will bear in mind. Mr. Browne found it necessary to put all the men on the sick list, and their comrades made them as comfortable as they could, after their late fatigues.




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It was a great satisfaction to me to learn that everything had gone on well at the camp during my absence; Mr. Stuart had a good report to make of all. The cattle had been duly attended to, and had become exceedingly tame and quiet. The sheep were in splendid condition, but their flesh had a peculiar flavour—and that, too, not a very agreeable one, still their value was unquestionable, for if we had been living on salt provisions, it is more than probable that half of the party would have been left in the desert. The practicability of taking a flock of sheep into the interior, had now been fully proved in our case, at all events; but I am ready to admit that they are, notwithstanding, a precarious supply, and that unless great care be taken, they may be lost. The men, however, appeared to consider them of far too great importance to be neglected, and I think that when taken, they will for that very reason be well looked after.

The stockade had been erected and really looked very well; it was built just as I had directed, with the flag flying at the entrance. I availed myself of the opportunity, therefore, to call it “Fort Grey,” after his Excellency the then Governor of South Australia.

Mr. Stuart informed me that a few natives only had visited the camp; but that on one occasion some of them appeared armed, being as they said on their way to a grand fight, four of their tribe having been killed in a recent encounter. Only the day before,


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however, a party had visited the camp, one of whom had stolen Davenport's blanket. He was pretty sure of the thief, however, so we did not despair of getting it back again.

I observed that when we were on Eyre's Creek, the climate and temperature were cool and agreeable. From that period the heat had considerably increased, and the thermometer now ranged from 96 to 100°. The wind having settled in its old quarter the E.S.E., in this latitude was not so cold as we had felt it in a more northerly one. Why it should have been so, it is difficult to say: we know the kind of country over which an E.S.E. wind must pass between the coast and the latitude of Fort Grey, and could not expect that it should be other than hot, but we are ignorant of the kind of country over which it may sweep higher up to the north. Can it be that there is a large body of water in that quarter? We shall soon have to record something to strengthen that supposition. About this period the sky was generally cloudy, and, as I have before remarked, in any other region it would have rained, but here only a few drops fell, no signs of which remained half an hour afterwards; the barometer, however, was very low, and it was not unreasonable to have encouraged hopes of a favourable change.

On the 3rd the natives who had visited the camp before our return, again came, together with the young boy who Davenport suspected had stolen his blanket. He charged him with the theft, therefore,


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and told him not to return to the tents again without it, explaining at the same time what he had said, to the other natives. The boy went away before the rest, but all of them returned the next day, and he gave up the blanket. On hearing this, I went out and praised him, and as he appeared to be sorry for his offence, I gave him a knife, in which I believe I erred, for we afterwards learnt, that the surrender of the blanket was not a voluntary act, but that he had been punished, and forced to restore it by his tribe. I cannot help thinking, however, that if the theft had not been discovered, the young rogue would have been applauded for his dexterity.

I had, during my journey back to the Depôt, sat up to a late hour writing, that no delay might take place in my intended arrangements on our arrival at Fort Grey. In revolving in my own mind the state of the country, I felt satisfied that, although the water had decreased fearfully since the July rain, the road was still open for Mr. Browne to make good his retreat, but it was quite uncertain how long it might continue so. It was evident, indeed, that neither he nor myself had any time to lose, but I waited for a few days before I broke the subject to him, reluctant as I was to hasten his departure, and feeling I should often have to regret the loss of such a companion. The varied reverses and disappointments we had encountered together, and the peculiar character of the expedition, had, as far as Mr. Browne and myself were


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concerned, removed all restraint, and left to ourselves in that dreary wilderness, we regarded each other as friends only, who were united in a common cause, in the success of which we were almost equally interested. I knew, therefore, that the proposal I was about to make would give him pain; but I counted on his acquiescence, and as time would not admit of delay, I availed myself of an opportunity that presented itself the third day after our return, to break it to him.

As we were sitting in the tent after dinner, with our tea still before us, I said to him, “I am afraid, Browne, from what I have observed, that you have mistaken the object for which I have returned to the Depôt, and that you have been buoying yourself up with the hope that it is done preparatory to our return to Adelaide; for myself I cannot encourage any such hope for the present, at least. So far indeed from this, I have for some time been reflecting as to the most prudent course to be pursued under our present circumstances; for, I would not conceal from you the pain I have felt at the failure of our endeavours to penetrate farther than we have been able to do into the interior, neither can I conceal from myself the fact, that whatever our personal exertions, the results of our labours have not been commensurate with our expectations, and that however great our perseverance or however difficult the task we have had to perform, the world at large will


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alone judge of its merits by its success. In considering how we can yet retrieve our misfortunes, one only step occurs to me, and whatever pain our separation may cost us, I am sure, where the interests of the services call for it, you will readily comply with my wishes. I propose, then, your return to Adelaide, with all the party but three; that you should leave me five horses, and take with you only such provisions as you may absolutely require upon the road. By such an arrangement I might yet hold out against the drought, and ultimately succeed in doing something to make up for the past.” My young friend was evidently unprepared for the proposition I had made. “You have done all you were sent out to do,” he observed, “why then seek to penetrate again into that horrid desert? It is impossible that you can succeed during the continuance of the dry weather. If you now go you will never get back again; besides, have you,” he asked, “made any calculations as to the means both of provisions and carriage you will require?” “That,” I replied, “is for my consideration, but I have done so, and it appears to me that both are ample.” “Well,” said Mr. Browne, “it may be so, I do not know, but I can never consent to leave you in this dreadful desert. Ask me to do anything else, and I will do it; but I cannot and will not desert you.” It was in vain that I assured him, he took a wrong view of the matter. That, as I had sent Mr. Poole home to increase my means, so I wished to send him, and that he would


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be rendering me as valuable, though not such agreeable service, as if he continued with me. You know, Browne,” I added, “that the eyes of the geographical world are fixed on me, and that I have a previous reputation to maintain; with you it is different. If I hoped to make any discovery I would not ask you to leave me. Believe me, I would that you shared the honour as you have shared the privations and anxieties of this desert with me; but I entertain no such hope, and would save you from further exposure. I have not seen enough of this dreary region to satisfy me as to its present condition. How then shall I satisfy others? That Stony Desert was, I believe, the bed of a former stream, but how can I speak decidedly on the little I have observed of it. No! as we have been forced back from one point, I must try another,—and I hope you will not throw any impediment in the way. There is every reason why you should return to Adelaide: your health is seriously impaired,—you are in constant pain,—and your affairs are going to ruin; on all these considerations I would urge you to comply with my wishes.” Mr. Browne admitted the truth of what I said, but felt certain that if he left, it would only be to hear of my having perished in that horrid desert,—that my life was too valuable to others to be so thrown away,— that he owed me too much to forsake me, and that he could not do that of which his conscience would ever after reproach him;—that his brother would


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attend to his interests, and that if it were otherwise, it would be no excuse for him to desert his friend,—that he would acquiesce in any other arrangement, but to leave me he could not. “Well,” I said, “I ask nothing unreasonable from you, nothing but what the sternness of duty calls for; and if you will not yield to friendly solicitations, I must order you home.” “I cannot go,” he replied; “I do not care for any pecuniary reward for my services, and will give it up: I want no pay, but desert you I will not.” The reader will better imagine than I can describe, such a scene passing in the heart of a wilderness, and under such circumstances I may not state all that passed; suffice it to say, that we at length separated, with an assurance on Mr. Browne's part, that he would consider what I had proposed, and speak to me again in the morning. The morning came, and after breakfast, he said he had endeavoured to force himself into a compliance with my wishes, but to no purpose;—that he could not leave me, and had made up his mind to take the consequences. It was in vain that I remonstrated, and I therefore ceased to importune him on a point which, however much I might regret his decision, I could not but feel that he was influenced by the most disinterested anxiety for my safety. But it became necessary to make some other arrangements; I had already been four days idle, and it was not my intention to let the week so pass over my head. Mr. Browne was too ill to accompany me again into the field. I sent, therefore, for Mr. Stuart, and told him to


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put up ten weeks provisions for four men,—to warn Morgan and Mack that I should require them to attend me when I again left the camp,—and to hold himself and them in readiness to commence the journey the day but one following; as I felt the horses required the rest I should myself otherwise have rejected.

I then sent for Mr. Browne, and told him that I proposed leaving the stockade in two days, by which time I hoped the horses would in some measure have recovered from their fatigues,—that as he could not attend me, I should take Mr. Stuart with two fresh men,—that in making my arrangements I found that I should be obliged to take all the horses but two, the one he rode and a weaker animal; to this, however, he would by no means consent—entreating me to take his horse also, as he felt assured I should want all the strength I could get.

No rain had as yet fallen, but every day the heat was increasing: the thermometer rising, even thus early in the season, to 98° and 100° in the shade, and the wind keeping steadily to the E.S.E. The country was so dry, and the largest pools of water had so diminished in quantity, that I doubted whether or not I should be able to get on, since as it was I should have to travel the first 86 miles without water, there being none in any other direction to the north of us. Even the large sheet in the first creek, to which I proposed going, had fearfully shrunk. But what gave me


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most uneasiness, was the reduced state of water on which the men and animals depended. From a fine broad sheet it was now confined within the limits of its own narrow channel, and I felt satisfied that if I should be absent many weeks, Mr. Browne would be obliged to abandon his position. Foreseeing this contingency, I arranged with him that in the event of his finding it necessary to retire, he should fall back on the little creek, near the old Depôt. That before he finally broke up the camp, he should dig a hole in some favourable part of the creek into which the water he might leave would drain, so as to insure on my return as much as possible, and we marked a tree under which he was to bury a bottle, with a letter in it to inform me of his intended movements. Nothing could have been more marked or more attentive than Mr. Browne's manner to me, and I am sure he saw me mount my horse to depart with sincere regret; but the interval between the conclusion of these arrangements and the day fixed on to resume my labours soon passed over, although I deferred it to the 9th, in consequence of Flood's assuring me that the horses required the additional rest.

I had, indeed, been the more disposed to postpone the day of my departure, because I hoped, from appearances, that rain would fall, but I was disappointed. On the 6th it was very close, and heavy clouds passed over us from the N.E., our rainy quarter, towards the Mount Serle ranges, but still no rain fell on the depressed and devoted region in which


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we were. At eight, however, it rained slightly for about a quarter of an hour, and the horizon was black with storm clouds; all night heavy thunder rolled in the distance, both to the west and east of us; my ear caught that joyful sound as I laid on my mattress, and I fervently prayed that it might be the precursor of a fall.

I could not but hope, that, in the ordinary course of events, to revive and to support nature, the great Author of it would have blessed the land, desert as it was, with moisture at last, but I listened in vain for the pattering of rain, no drops, whether heavy or light, fell on my tent. The morning of the 7th dawned fair and clear; the sun rose in unshrouded splendour; and crossed the heavens on that day without the intervention of a cloud to obscure his disc for a moment. If then I except the rain of July, which lasted, at intervals, for three days, we had not had any for eleven months. Under the withering effects of this long continued drought, the vegetable kingdom was again at a stand; and we ourselves might be said to have been contending so long against the elements. No European in that respect had ever been more severely tried.

The day before we commenced our journey to the north it was exceedingly hot, the thermometer rose to 106° in the shade, and thus early in the season were we forewarned of what we might expect when the sun should become more vertical. In the afternoon the old man who had visited us just before we commenced our late journey, arrived in the camp with his two wives, and a nice little girl about eleven,


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with flowing curly hair, the cleanliness and polish of which would have done credit to the prettiest head that ever was adorned with such. They came in from the S.W., and were eagerly passing our tents, without saying a word, and making for the water, when we called to them and supplied all their wants. The poor things were almost perishing from thirst, and seized the pannikins with astonishing avidity, when they saw that they contained water, and had them replenished several times. It happened also fortunately for them, that the lamb of the only ewe we had with us, and which had been dropped a few weeks before, got a coup de soleil, in consequence of which I ordered it to be killed, and given to the old man and his family for supper. This they all of them appeared to enjoy uncommonly, and very little of it was left after their first meal. The old man seemed to be perfectly aware that we had been out, but shook his head when I made him understand that I was going out again in the morning.

I determined, on the journey I was about to commence, to run on a due north course from the first “Strzelecki's Creek,” as soon as I should reach it, and to penetrate the interior in that direction as far as circumstances might justify. As the reader will have concluded from the observations I have made, it had occurred to me that the Stony Desert had been the bed of a former stream, and I felt satisfied that if I was right in that conclusion, I should certainly strike it again. My object, therefore, was to keep


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at such a distance from my last course, as should leave no doubt of that fact upon my mind; it appeared to me that a due northerly course would about meet my views, and that if the Stony Desert was what I supposed it to have been, I should come upon it about two degrees to the eastward of where I had already crossed it. In pushing up to the north I also hoped that I might find a termination to the sandy ridges, although I could not expect to get into any very good country, for from what we saw to the north it was evidently much lower than that over which we had passed, and I therefore looked for a cessation of the sandy ridges we had before been so severely distressed on passing.

I shook hands with Mr. Browne about half-past eight on the morning of the 9th of October, and left the depôt camp at Fort Grey, with Mr. Stuart, Morgan and Mack, taking with me a ten-weeks' supply of flour and tea. I once more struck into the track I had already twice traversed, with the intention of turning to the north as soon as I should gain Strzelecki's Creek. As we rode over the sand-hills, they appeared as nothing to me, after the immense accumulations of sand we had crossed when Mr. Browne and I were out together. We stopped short of the flat in which we had sunk the largest well on that occasion, to give the horses time to feed a little before sunset, and not to hurry them too much at starting. The day was exceedingly warm, and the wind from the N.E. A few heat-drops fell during the night, but the short


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thunder shower at the Depôt on the Sunday did not appear to have extended so far as where we then were. Nevertheless it would appear, that these low regions are simultaneously affected by any fall of rain; for there can be no doubt as to that of July having extended all over the desert interior, and the drizzling shower we had at the head of the northern Eyre's Creek, just as we were about to retrace our steps, having been felt the same day at the camp. I have just said that the day had been exceedingly hot, with the wind from the N.E., a quarter from whence we might naturally have expected that it would have blown warm; but I would observe, that before Mr. Browne and I passed the Stony Desert on our recent excursion, the winds from that point were unusually cold, and continued so until after we had crossed the Desert, and pushed farther up to the north, when they changed from cold to heat. I will not venture any conjecture as to the cause of this, because I can give no solution to the question, but leave it to the ingenuity of my readers, who are as well able to judge of such a fact as myself.

I would also advert to a circumstance I neglected to mention in its proper place, but which may be as forcibly done now as at the time it occurred. When Mr. Browne and I were on our recent journey to the north, after having crossed the Stony Desert, being then between it and Eyre's Creek, about nine o'clock in the morning, we distinctly heard a report as of a great gun discharged, to the westward, at the distance of half a mile. On the following morning, nearly at


  ― 25 ―
the same hour, we again heard the sound; but it now came from a greater distance, and consequently was not so clear. When I was on the Darling, in lat. 30°, in 1828, I was roused from my work by a similar report; but neither on that occasion, or on this, could I solve the mystery in which it was involved. It might, indeed, have been some gaseous explosion, but I never, in the interior, saw any indication of such phenomena.

We were obliged to fasten up our horses to prevent them from straying for water, and had, therefore, nothing to do but to saddle them on the morning of the 10th, and started at six. Our journey the day before had been 33 miles: this day we rode about 36, to the little muddy creek the the reader will, I have no doubt, call to mind. In it, contrary to my expectation, we found a small supply of water, though difficult to get; and I halted at it, therefore, for the night, and reached the Strzelecki Creek about half-past ten on the morning of the 11th, in which I was rejoiced to find that the water was far from being exhausted. Turning northwards up the creek, I halted about half-past one at the upper pool, about seven miles from the first. As far as this point the lay of the sand ridges was N.N.E. and S.S.W.

As Mr. Browne had stated to me, the country to the north was much more open from the point at which we now were than to the west. A vast plain, indeed, met the horizon in the first direction, and as


  ― 26 ―
we rode up it on the 12th, we observed that it was bounded at irregular distances, varying from three to six miles, on either side of us, by low sand hills. The whole plain was evidently subject to flood, and the travelling in some places was exceedingly heavy. We had ridden from early dawn until the sun had sunk below the horizon, without seeing any apparent termination to this plain, or the slightest indication of water. Just as it was twilight we got on a polygonum flat; there being a little sand hill on one side of it, under which I determined to stop for the night.

While the men were tethering the horses on the best part of the flat, where there happened to be a little green grass, Mr. Stuart and I walked up the sand hill; but in the obscure light then prevailing, we could not see any thing distinctly. It appeared, however, that the country before us was traversed by a belt either of forest or of scrub; there was a long dark line running across the country, but we could not make out what it was, so that we descended to our little bivouac full of hope, and anxious for the morning dawn to satisfy ourselves as to what we had been looking at. Day had scarcely broke when we were again on the hill; and as objects became clearer, saw a broad belt of gum-trees extending from the southward of east to the north-west. It was bounded on either side by immense plains, on which were here and there ridges of sand, but at a great distance from each


  ― 27 ―
other. There was another small sand hill distant four miles, and an apparently high and broken chain of mountains was visible to the N.E., distant more than 50 miles. The trees were not more than three miles from us, and were denser and seemingly larger than any we had seen; and although we could not see any water glittering amidst the foliage, yet I could not but hope that we were on the eve of some important discovery. There were likewise mountains in the distance, with broken lofty peaks, exactly resembling the Mount Serle chain, and I ventured to hope that I had at length found a way to escape from the gloomy region to which we had been so long confined. Descending from our position we pushed for a dark mass of foliage to the N.E., and shortly after crossing the dry bed of a lagoon, found ourselves riding through an open box-tree forest, amidst an abundance of grass. At half a mile further we were brought up by our arrival on the banks of a magnificent channel. There was a large sheet of water to our left, covered with wild fowl. Flooded gum-trees of large size grew on its banks, and its appearance was altogether imposing. I stood looking in admiration on the broad mirror so close to me, and upon a sight so unusual; and I deeply regretted at that moment that Mr. Browne was not with me to enjoy the gratification of such a scene.

We dismounted and turned our horses out to feed on the long grass in the bed of this beautiful creek,


  ― 28 ―
and whilst Morgan prepared breakfast, Mr. Stuart and Mack took their guns and knocked over three ducks, that were, I suppose, never used to be so taken in; but the remainder would not stand fire long, and flew off to the eastward. As they passed, however, I snatched up a carbine, and, without taking any aim, discharged it into the midst of them, and brought one of their number down—the only bird I had shot for many years.

After giving the horses a good feed and a good rest, I crossed the channel of the creek to ascend the little hill I had seen from our morning position, that by taking bearings of the distant ranges from both, I might arrive at their approximate distance from me. From this little hill the prospect was much the same as from the first, only that the distant ranges seemed to be still higher, and there was a long line either of water or mirage at their base, and we now appeared to be in a belt of wood, for the hill on which we stood, rose in the midst of the trees, and our eyes wandered over the tops of them to the distant plains. We descended from it northwards, but had not gone half a mile, when we were again stopped by another creek, still broader and finer than the first. The breadth of its channel was more than 200 yards, its banks were from fifteen to eighteen feet high, and it had splendid sheets of water both above and below us. The natives, whose broad and well beaten paths leading from angle to angle of the creek we had crossed on our approach to it,


  ― 29 ―
had fired the grass, and it was now springing up in the bed of the most beautiful green. I determined, therefore, to stay where I was until the following day, to give my animals the food and rest they so much required, and myself time for reflection. We accordingly dismounted, and turned the horses out, and it was really a pleasure to see them in clover.

The whole bed of the creek was of a vivid green, excepting where gravel had been deposited in it, but the animals kept on the grass, close to the water's edge. As we had approached the creek through a belt of wood, so it extended on the other side for a considerable distance into the plains, but the soil was not so good as in the neighbourhood of the first channel we had crossed, since bushes of rhagodia were growing underneath the trees, as indicative of a slight mixture of salt in the earth. The appearance of the creek, however, embosomed as it was in wood, was very fine, more especially the upward view of it, where there was a splendid sheet of water, in the centre of which the branches of a huge tree appeared reflected, the trunk being completely hid. About a quarter of a mile above us a tributary joins the main branch from the eastward, that when flooded must have a fall of three or four feet, and something of the character of a Canadian rapid.

When I sat down beside the waters of the beautiful channel to which Providence in its goodness had been pleased to direct my steps, I felt more than I had ever done in my life, the responsibility


  ― 30 ―
of the task I had undertaken. When I left the Depôt I had determined on keeping a northerly course into the interior, for the reasons I have already assigned; but knowing the state of the country as I did, and the little chance there was of finding water on its parched and yawning surface, I now hesitated whether I should persevere in my first determination, or proceed in the examination of this new feature, and of the mountain ranges to the N.E. both of which I had every reason to hope would lead me out of the present fearful desert into a better country. Any one perhaps less experienced than myself in the treacherous character of the most promising river of the Australian Continent, would have acted differently. It would in all probability have occurred to them to trace the creek, either upwards or downwards, in the hope of its leading to something better. It was clear, however, that the first channel I had crossed, was a branch only of that upon which I was resting, and by which the plains I had traversed on approaching it were laid under water, and I felt assured that if my conclusion as to the Stony Desert was correct, I should derive no advantage in tracing the creek downwards, since I knew it would either terminate in extensive grassy plains as I had found other creeks to do, or be lost on the broad surface of the Stony Desert. Taking every thing into consideration, I had resolved on turning to the eastward, to examine the upward course of the creek, believing it more than probable


  ― 31 ―
that it would lead me into the hills, but, as I was weighing these things in my mind, the sky became suddenly overcast and a thunder-storm passed over us, which for the short half hour it continued was of unusual violence, filling all the little hollows on the plains, and chequering them over with sheets of water. The road northwards being thus thrown open to me, I returned to my original purpose, and determined on the morrow to pursue a northerly course directly into the interior, in the hope that ere the surface water left by the thunder-storm should be dried up, I might reach such another creek as the one I was about to quit, or find some other such permanent place of safety; leaving the examination of the upper branches of the creek, and of the mountain ranges to the period of my return. Accordingly on the morning of the 13th, we left our position, crossing to the proper right bank of the creek, and breaking through the nearer box tree forest, traversed open plains, the soil of which was principally sand, but there was an abundance of grass upon them, and they were somewhat elevated above the more alluvial flats near the creek. At 2½ miles we crossed a large tributary from the N.E., the main branch trended to the N.W., and we kept the belt of trees in view as we rode along, during the greater part of the day. At seven miles we descended a little from the grassy plains to a flooded plain of considerable extent, but again rose from it to the sandy level, and finding a small puddle of rain water at 36 miles I halted.




  ― 32 ―

As I was about to trust entirely to the supply of water left by the recent storm, and knew not to what distance it had extended, I felt it necessary to take every precaution to insure our retreat. We worked, therefore, by the light of the moon, and dug a square pit, into which we drained all the water that remained after the horses had satisfied themselves in the morning, but the quantity was so small that I scarcely hoped to derive any advantage from it on our return; and it was really the zeal of Morgan and Mack that induced me to allow them to finish it. Warm as the weather had been at Fort Grey, the night was bitterly cold, with the wind from the S.S.E. We left this, our first well, at early dawn, riding across a continuation of the same grassy and sandy land as that we had journeyed over the day before, only that it had many bare patches upon it full of water, the undersoil being a red clay. The same kind of tree we had seen to the eastward, between the old Depôt and the Darling, and which I had there taken to be a species of Juglans, prevailed hereabouts in sheltered places.

The creek line of trees was was still visible to our left, so that it must have come up a little more to the north. We crossed several native paths leading to it: the impression of an enormous foot was on one of them. At eight miles we descended to a flooded plain, scattered over with stunted box-trees, the greater number being dead, and I may remark that we generally found such to be the case on lands


  ― 33 ―
of a similar description; a fact, it appears to me, that can only be accounted for from the long-continued drought to which these unhappy regions are subject. These flooded plains are generally torn to pieces by cracks of four, six, and eight feet deep, of a depth, indeed, far below that at which I should imagine trees draw their support; but the box-tree spreads its roots very near the surface of the ground, having, I suppose, no prominent tap root, and can therefore receive no moisture from such a soil as that in which we so often found it in premature decay; the excess of moisture at one time, and the want of it at another, must be injurious to trees and plants of all kinds, and this circumstance may be a principal cause of the deficiency of timber in the interior of Australia.

From the level, we ascended to sandy and grassy plains as before, but they were now bounded by sandy ridges of a red colour, and partly covered with spinifex. I really shuddered at the re-appearance of those solid waves which I had hoped we had left behind, but such was not the case. At six miles we arrived at the base, and ascending one of them, found that it was flanked on both sides by others; the space between the ridges being occupied by the white and dry beds of salt lagoons. The reader will, I am sure, sympathise with me in these repeated disappointments, for the very aspect of these dreaded deposits, if I may so call them, withered hope. To whatever point of the


  ― 34 ―
compass I turned, whether to the west, to the north, or to the east, these heart-depressing features existed to damp the spirits of my men, and irresistibly to depress my own; but it was not for me to repine under such circumstances, I had undertaken a task, and in the performance of it had to take the country as it laid before me, whether a Desert or an Eden. Still whatever moral convictions we may have, we cannot always control our feelings. The direction of the ridges was nearly north and south, somewhat to the westward of the first point, so that at a distance of more than two degrees to the eastward they almost preserved their parallelism. We rode along the base of a ridge for about three miles, but as on ascending it to take a survey, I observed that at about a mile beyond, it terminated, and that the dry bed of the lagoon to our right passed into a plain of great breadth immediately in front, the character and appearance of which was very doubtful, and as it was now sunset, and we had journeyed upwards of 34 miles, I halted for the night at another puddle, rather larger than the last, but with sorry feed for the horses. At this place we dug our second well, by moonlight, as we had dug the first, and laid down on the ground to rest, fatigued, I candidly admit, both in mind and body.

The day had been exceedingly cold, as was the night, and on the following morning with the wind at S.S.E., and a clear and cloudless sky, the temperature still continued low. At about a mile from where we had bivouacked,


  ― 35 ―
we arrived at the termination of the sandy ridge, and descended into the plain I had been reluctant to traverse in the uncertain light of evening. It proved firm, however, though it was evidently subject to floods. Samphire, salsolæ, and mesembryanthemum were growing on it, and one would have supposed from its appearance that it was a sea marsh. Mr. Stuart shot a beautiful ground parrot as we were crossing it, on a bearing of 345°, or little more than a N. and by W. course. At 6½ miles we ascended some heavy sandy ridges, without any regularity in their disposition, but lying in great confusion. Toiling over these, at seven or eight miles farther we sighted a fine sheet of water, bearing N. and distant about two miles. At another mile I altered my course to 325°, to pass to the westward of this new feature, which then proved to be a lake about the size of Lake Bonney, that is to say from 10 to 12 miles in circumference. The ridge by which we had approached it terminated suddenly and directly over it; to our right there were other ridges terminating in a similar manner, with rushy flats between them; eastward the country was dark and very low; to the north there was a desert of glittering white sand in low hillocks, scattered over with dwarf brush, and on it the heat was playing as over a furnace. Immediately beneath me to the west there was a flat leading to the shore of the lake, and on the western side a bright red sand hill, full eighty feet high, shut out the view in that quarter. This ridge


  ― 36 ―
was not altogether a mile and a half in length, and behind it there were other ridges of the same colour bounding the horizon with edges as sharp as icebergs.

I did not yet know whether the waters of the lake were salt or fresh, although I feared they were salt. Looking on it, however, I saw clearly that it was very shallow; a line of poles ran across it, such as are used by the natives for catching wild fowl, of which there were an abundance, as well as of hematops on the water. As soon as we descended from the sand ridge we got on a narrow native path, that led us down to a hut, about 100 yards from the shore of the lake.

As we approached the water, the effluvia from it was exceedingly offensive, and the ground became a soft, black muddy sand. On tasting it we found that the water was neither one thing or the other, neither salt or fresh, but wholly unfit for use. Close to its margin there was a broad path leading to the eastward, or rather round the lake; and under the sand ridge to the west, were twenty-seven huts, but they had long been deserted, and were falling to decay. Nevertheless they proved that the waters of the lake were sometimes drinkable, or that the natives had some other supply of fresh water at no great distance, from whence they could easily come to take wild fowl, nor could I doubt such place would be the creek.

Notwithstanding that the water was so bad, I tried several places by digging, but invariably came to salt water, oozing through black mud, and I there


  ― 37 ―
fore presumed that a good deal of rain must have fallen hereabouts, to have tempered the water of the lake so much; which it struck me would otherwise have been quite saline. From the point where we first came down upon it, we traversed a flat beach covered with a short coarse rush, having the high red sand hill, of which I have spoken, to our left; before us a vast extent of low white sand, and to the eastward an extremely dark and depressed country. I was really afraid of entering on the scorching sands in our front, for we were now full 90 miles from the creek, and it was absolutely necessary, before I should exceed that distance, to find a more permanent supply of water than the wells we had dug on our way out. In order to ascertain the nature of the country more satisfactorily, however, I ascended the rugged termination of the sandy ridge, close to which we had been riding, and was induced, from what I then saw, to determine on a course somewhat to the west of north, since a due north course was evidently closed upon me; for I now saw that the country in that direction was hopeless, as well as in an easterly direction; but although I stood full 80 feet above the lake, I could not distinguish any thing like a hill on the distant horizon. To the westward, as a medium point, there were a succession of sandy ridges, similar to that on which I stood; but to the S.W. there seemed to be an interval of plain. As the thunder storm had reached as far as the place where we last slept, I did not doubt but that it had


  ― 38 ―
also reached the lake, and on consideration determined to keep as northerly a course as circumstances would permit, in pushing into a country in which I was meeting new difficulties every hour. Descending, therefore, on a bearing of 340°, I went to a distance of six miles before coming to a small puddle at which I was glad to halt, it being the only drinkable water we had seen. Here we dug a third well, although, like the first, there was but little chance of benefiting by it. It behoved me therefore to be still more careful in increasing my distance from the creek, so that on the morning of the 17th I thought it prudent to search for some, and as the country appeared open to the south, I turned to that point in the hope of success.

We crossed some low sand hills to a swamp in which there was a good deal of surface water, but none of a permanent kind. We then crossed the N.W. extremity of an extensive grassy plain, similar to those I have already described, but infinitely larger. It continued, indeed, for many miles to the south, passing between all the sandy points jutting into it; and so closely was the Desert allied to fertility at this point, and I may say in these regions, that I stood more than once with one foot on salsolaceous plants growing in pure sand, with the other on luxuriant grass, springing up from rich alluvial soil. At two miles and a quarter from the swamp, striking a native path we followed it up to the S.W., and, at three-quarters of a mile, we reached two huts that had been built on a small rise of


  ― 39 ―
ground, with a few low trees near them. Our situation was too precarious to allow of my passing these huts without a strict search round about, for I was sure that water was not far off; and at length we found a small, narrow, and deep channel of but a few yards in length, hid in long grass, at a short distance from them. The water was about three feet deep, and was so sheltered that I made no doubt it would last for ten days or a fortnight. Grateful for the success that had attended our search, I allowed the horses to rest and feed on the grass for a time; but it was of the kind from which the natives collect so much seed, and though beautiful to the eye, was not relished by our animals. The plains extended for miles to the south and south-east, with an aspect of great luxuriance and beauty; nor could I doubt they owed their existence to the final overflow of the large creek we had all along marked trending down to this point. Such, indeed, I felt from the first, even when I looked on its broad and glittering waters, would sooner or later be its termination, or that it would expend itself, less usefully, on the Stony Desert. As yet, however, there was no indication of our approach to that iron region. The plains were surrounded on all sides by lofty ridges of sand, and the whole scene bore ample testimony to the comparative infancy, if I may so express myself, of the interior. We next pursued a N.N.W. course into the interior, and soon left the grassy plains, crossing alternate sand ridges


  ― 40 ―
and flats on a bearing of 346°, the whole country having a strong resemblance to that between Sydney and Botany Bay in New South Wales. On one of the ridges we surprised a native, who ran from us in great terror, and with incredible speed. About noon we crossed a plain, partly covered with stones and partly bare, and at the further extremity of it passed through a gorge between two sand hills into another plain that was barren beyond description, with only salsolaceous herbs. It had large white patches of clay on it, the shallow receptacles of rain water, but they were all dry. The plain was otherwise covered with low salsolæ, excepting on the higher ground, on which samphire alone was growing. It was surrounded on all sides by sand hills of a fiery red, and not even a stunted hakea was to be seen. From this plain we again crossed alternate sand hills and flats, the former covered with spinifex, the latter being quite denuded of all vegetation; but one of the horses at last knocking up, I was obliged to halt in this gloomy region, at the only puddle of rain water we had seen since leaving the grassy plain. I was sure, however, from the change that had taken place, and the character of the country around us, that we were approaching that feature, the continuance of which, in order to elucidate its probable origin, it had been a principal object in my present journey to ascertain. I felt so convinced on this point, that I could not have returned to Adelaide without having satisfied my mind on the


  ― 41 ―
subject. I might, indeed, have had general ideas as to the past state of the depressed interior, from what I had already seen of it; but the Stony Desert was the key to disclose the whole,—and although I feared again to tread its surface, its existence so far away to the eastward of where I had first been on it, would at least tend to confirm my impressions as to what it had been.

It was clear, indeed, from the character of the country through which we had just passed, that we were again approaching the salt formation; more especially when, from the highest ground near us, I observed its generally dark aspect, and that there was the dry bed of a large salt lagoon directly in our course. We here dug a fourth well: the water was extremely muddy and thick, for the basin in which it was contained was very shallow, and the wind constantly playing on its surface raised waves that had stirred up the mud; but as there was more water than usual, I hoped that by deepening, it might settle. This was nothing new to us, for not only on our journey to Lake Torrens and to the N.W., had we subsisted on similar beverage, but the water at the Depôt at Fort Grey was half mud, and perfectly opaque. However, it was a matter of necessity to retain it here if possible, and we therefore took the best measures in our power to do so.

On the 19th we resumed our journey on the former bearing, the wind blowing keen from the


  ― 42 ―
south. At about a mile and a half we reached the salt lagoon, as it appeared to be in the distance, but which proved to be rather a flooded plain. It was about two miles broad, and three and three-quarters long, and was speckled over rather than covered with salt herbs. At this time, also, we had an immense barren plain to our left, bounded all around, but more particularly to the north, by sand hills; over these we toiled for nine miles, when at their termination the centre of the plain bore 176° to the east of north, or nearly south. At five miles and a half further, having previously crossed a small stony plain, succeeded by sand ridges and valleys, both covered with spinifex, we ascended a pointed hill that lay directly in our course, and from it beheld the Stony Desert almost immediately below our feet. I must acknowledge, that coming so suddenly on it, I almost lost my breath. It was apparently unaltered in a single feature: herbless and treeless, it occupied more than one half of the visible horizon, that is to say, from 10° east of north, westward round to south. As to the eastward, so here the ridges we had just crossed abutted upon it, and as many of them were lower than the line of the horizon, they looked like sea dunes, backed by storm clouds, from the dusky colour of the plain.

After surveying this gloomy expanse of stoneclad desert we looked for some object on the N.W. horizon upon which to move across it, but none presented itself, excepting a very distant sand hill


  ― 43 ―
bearing 308°, towards which I determined to proceed. We accordingly descended to the plain, and soon found ourselves on its uneven surface. There was a narrow space destitute of stones at the base of the sand hill, stamped all over with the impressions of natives' feet. From eighty to one hundred men, women, and children must have passed along there; and it appeared to me that this had been a migration of some tribe or other during the wet weather, but it was very clear those poor people never ventured on the plain itself.

Descended from our high position, we could no longer see the sand hill just noticed, but held on our course by compass like a ship at sea, being two hours and forty minutes in again sighting it; and reaching it in somewhat less than an hour afterwards, calculated the distance at thirteen miles. As we approached, it looked like an island in the midst of the ocean; but we found a large though shallow sheet of water amongst the stones under it, for which we were exceedingly thankful. From this point we crossed to another sand hill that continued northerly further than we could see, having the Desert on either hand. Our horses beginning to flag, I halted at five on the side of the ridge, near a small puddle that had only water enough for them to drink off at once.

The morning of the 20th was bitterly cold, with the wind at S.S.E., and I cannot help thinking that there are extensive waters in some parts of the in


  ― 44 ―
terior, over which it came: the thermometer stood at 42°. We started on a course of 335° for a distant sandy peak rising above the general line of the horizon. At a mile, one of the horses fortunately got bogged in a little narrow channel just like that in the grassy plain; I say fortunately, for we might otherwise have passed the water it contained without knowing it, so completely was it shaded. In looking along the channel more closely, we discovered a little pool about three yards long and one broad, but deep. At this we breakfasted and watered the horses, and then pushed on. The lodgment of this water had been caused by local drainage, and was evident from the green feed round about. Here again it appeared we had occasion to be thankful, for on this supply I hoped we might safely calculate for a week at least, so that we still held on our course with more confidence, keeping at the base of the ridge, and passing an extent of five miles through an open box-tree forest, every tree of which was dead. The whole scene being one of the most profound silence and marked desolation, for here no living thing was to be seen.

At nine miles we ascended the ridge, and from it the Desert appeared to be interminable from N. to N.E., but a few distant sand hills now shewed themselves to the eastward of the last mentioned point. We then descended into a valley of sand and spinifex, and at four miles and a half ascended an elevated


  ― 45 ―
peak in a sandy ridge lying in our way. From this, the view to the north-west was over a succession of sand hills. The point we stood upon, as well as the ridge, was flanked southwards by an immense plain of red sand and clay, and to the N.E. by a similar but smaller plain. Crossing a portion of the great plain, at four miles and a half we ascended another peak, and then traversed a narrow valley crossing from it into a second valley, down which we travelled for six miles.

At that distance it was half a mile in breadth, and there was a little verdure near some gum-trees, but no water. As we were searching about, a cockatoo, (Cacatua Leadbeateri) flew over the sand hill to our right, and pitched in the trees; we consequently crossed to the opposite side and halted for the night, where there was a good deal of green grass for the horses, but no water in the contiguous valley.




  ― 46 ―

2. Chapter II.

The horses — Ascend the hills — Irresolution and retreat — Horses reduced to great want — Unexpected relief—Try the Desert to the N.E. — Find water in our last well — Reach the creek — Proceed to the eastward — Plague of flies and ants — Surprise an old man — Sea-gulls and pelicans — Fish — Pool of brine — Meet natives—Turn to the N.E. — Cooper's Creek tribe, their kindness and appearance — Attempt to cross the plains — Turn back—Proceed to the northward — Effects of refraction—Find natives at our old camp and the stores untouched — Cooper's creek, its geographical position.

I HAD taken all the horses, with the exception of one, out with me on this journey, and as they will shortly bear a prominent part in this narrative, I will make some mention of them. My own horse was a grey—for which reason I called him Duncan,—I had ridden him during the whole period of my wanderings, and think I never saw an animal that could endure more, or suffered less from the want of water; he was aged, and a proof, that in the brute creation as well as with mankind, years give a certain stamina that youth does not possess. This animal, as the reader will believe, knew me well, as indeed did all the horses, for I had stood by to see them watered many a time. Mr. Stuart rode Mr. Browne's horse, a


  ― 47 ―
little animal, but one of great endurance also; Mack used a horse we called the Roan, a hunter that had been Mr. Poole's. Morgan rode poor Punch, whose name I have before had occasion to mention, and who, notwithstanding subsequent rest, had not recovered from the fatigues of his northern excursion. Besides these we had four pack horses:—Bawley, a strong and compact little animal, with a blaze on the forehead, high spirited, with a shining coat, and having been a pet, was up to all kind of tricks, but was a general favourite, and a nice horse;—the other was Traveller, a light chesnut, what the hunter would call a washy brute, always eating and never fat;—the Colt, so called from his being young, certainly unequal to such a journey as that on which he was taken;—and Slommy, another aged horse. During the summer, Traveller had had a great discharge from the nose, and I was several times on the point of ordering him to be shot, under an apprehension that his disease was the glanders; but, although the colt and my own horse contracted it, I postponed my final mandate, and all recovered; however, he continued weak. At this time they were unshod, and had pretty well worn their hoofs down to the quick, insomuch that any inequality in the ground made them limp, and it was distressing to ride them; but, notwithstanding, they bore up singularly against the changes and fatigues they had to go through.

From a small rising ground near where we


  ― 48 ―
stopped in the valley, on the occasion of which I am speaking, and in the obscure light of departing day we saw to the N.N.W. a line of dark looking hills, at the distance of about ten or twelve miles, but we could not discover tree or bush upon them, all we could make out was that they were dark objects above the line of horizon, and that the intervening country seemed to be as dark as they were. The weather had changed from cold to hot, the wind having flown from S. to the N.E., and the day and night were exceedingly warm. I was sorry to observe, too, that the horses had scarcely touched the grass on which, for their sakes, I had been tempted to stop, and that they were evidently suffering from the previous day's journey of from 34 to 36 miles, that being about the distance we had left the water in the grassy valley. Before mounting, on the morning of the 21st, Mr. Stuart and I went to see if we could make out more than we had been able to do the night before, what kind of country was in front of us, but we were disappointed, and found that we should have to wait patiently until we got nearer the hills to judge of their formation. About half a mile below where we had slept, the valley led to the N.N.E., and on turning, we found it there opened at once upon the Stony Desert; but the hills were now hid from us by sandy undulations to our left, and even when we got well into the plain we could hardly make out what the hills were. As we neared them, however, we observed that


  ― 49 ―
they were nothing more than high sand hills, covered with stones even as the desert itself, to their tops. That part of it over which we were riding also differed from any other portion, in having large sharp-pointed water-worn rocks embedded in the ground amongst the stones, as if they had been so whilst the ground was soft. There was a line of small box-trees marking the course of a creek between us and the hills, and a hope that we should find water cheered us for a moment, but that ray soon vanished when we saw the nature of its bed. We searched along it for about half an hour in vain, and then turned to the hills and ascended to the top of one of the highest, about 150 feet above the level of the plain. From it the eye wandered hopelessly for some bright object on which to rest. Behind us to the south-east lay the sand hills we had crossed, with the stony plain sweeping right round them, but in every other direction the dark brown desert extended. The line of the horizon was broken to the north-west and north by hills similar to the one we had ascended; but in those directions not a blade of grass, not a glittering spot was to be seen.

At this point, which I have placed in lat. 25° 54' and in long. 139° 25', I had again to choose between the chance of success or disaster, as on the first occasion; if I went on and should happen to find water, all for the time would be well, if not, destruction would have been inevitable. I was now nearly 50 miles from water, and feared that, as it was, some


  ― 50 ―
of my horses would fall before I could get back to it, yet I lingered undecided on the hill, reluctant to make up my mind, for I felt that if I thus again retired, it would be a virtual abandonment of the task undertaken. I should be doing an injustice to Mr. Stuart and to my men if I did not here mention that I told them the position we were placed in, and the chance on which our safety would depend if we went on. They might well have been excused if they had expressed an opinion contrary to such a course, but the only reply they made was to assure me that they were ready and willing to follow me to the last. After this, I believe I sat on the hill for more than half an hour with the telescope in my hand, but there was nothing to encourage me onwards; our situation, however, admitted not of delay. I might, it is true, have gone on and perished with all my men; but I saw neither the credit nor the utility of such a measure. I trust the reader will believe that I would not have shrunk from any danger that perseverance or physical strength could have overcome; that indeed I did not shrink from the slow fate, which, as far as I could judge, would inevitably have awaited me if I had gone on; but that in the exercise of sound discretion I decided on falling back. The feeling which would have led me onwards was similar to that of a man who is sensible of having committed an error, yet is ashamed to make an apology, and who would rather run the risk of being shot, than of having the charge of pusillanimity fixed


  ― 51 ―
upon him; but I have never regretted the step I took, and it has been no small gratification to me to find that the Noble President of the Royal Geographical Society, Lord Colchester, when addressing the members of that enlightened body, in its name presenting medals to Dr. Leichhardt and myself, for our labours in the cause of Geography, alluded to and approved “the prudence with which further advance was abandoned, when it could only have risked the loss of those entrusted to my charge.”

We slowly retraced our steps to the valley in which we had slept, and I stopped there for half an hour, but none of the horses would eat, with the exception of Traveller, and he certainly made good use of his time. The others collected round me as I sat under a tree, with their heads over mine, and my own horse pulled my hat off my head to engage my attention. Poor brute! I would have given much at that moment to have relieved him, but I could not. We were all of us in the same distress, and if we had not ultimately found water must all have perished together. Finding that they would not eat, we saddled and proceeded onwards, I should say backwards—and at 10 P.M. we were on the sand ridges. At the head of the valley Traveller fell dead, and I feared every moment that we should lose the Colt. At one I stopped to rest the horses till dawn, and then remounted, but Morgan and Mack


  ― 52 ―
got slowly on, so that I thought it better to precede them, and if possible to take some water back to moisten the mouth of their horses, and I accordingly went in advance with Mr. Stuart. I thought we should never have got through the dead box-tree forest I have mentioned, however we did so about 11 A.M., and made straight for the spot where we expected to relieve both ourselves and our horses, but the water was gone. Mr. Stuart poked his fingers into the mud and moistened his lips with the water that filled the holes he had made, but that was all. We were yet searching for water when Morgan and Mack appeared, but without the colt; fortunately they had descended into the valley higher up, and had found a little pool, which they had emptied, under an impression that we had found plenty; and were astonished at hearing that none any longer remained. In this situation, and with the apparent certain prospect of losing my own and Mr. Browne's horse, and the colt which was still alive when the men left him, not more than a mile in the rear, we continued our search for water, but it would have been to no purpose. Suddenly a pigeon topped the sand hill—it being the first bird we had seen—a solitary bird— passing us like lightning, it pitched for a moment, and for a moment only, on the plain, about a quarter of a mile from us, and then flew away. It could only have wetted its bill, but Mr. Stuart had marked the spot, and there was water. Perhaps I ought to dwell for a moment on this singular occurrence, but I leave


  ― 53 ―
it to make its own impression on the reader's feelings. I was enabled to send back to the colt, and we managed to save him, and as there was a sufficiency of water for our consumption, I determined to give the men a day of rest, and to try if I could find a passage across the Desert a little to the eastward of north, and with Mr. Stuart proceeded in that direction on the morning of the 24th; but at 3 P.M. we were out of sight of all high land. The appearance of the Desert was like that of an immense sea beach, and large fragments of rock were imbedded in the ground, as if by the force of waters, and the stones were more scattered, thus shewing the sandy bed beneath and betwixt them. The day was exceedingly hot, and our horses' hoofs were so brittle that pieces flew off them like splinters when they struck them against the stones. We were at this time about sixteen or seventeen miles from the sand hill where we had left the men. The Desert appeared to be taking a northerly direction, and certainly was much broader than further to the westward, making apparently for the Gulf of Carpentaria; nor could I doubt but that there had once been an open sea between us and it. We reached our little bivouac at 9 P.M. both ourselves and our horses thoroughly wearied, and disappointed as we had been, I regretted that I had put the poor things to unnecessary hardships. Perhaps I was wrong in having done so, but I could not rest. Our latitude here was 26° 26' and our long. by account 139° 21'. In the morning we


  ― 54 ―
crossed the remaining portion of the Desert, as I had determined on making the best of my way to the creek, and passing the sandy ridges reached our first water (the 4th going out), about sunset or a little before. Water still remained, but it was horridly thick, and in the morning smelt so offensive that it was loathsome to ourselves and the animals. Our great, indeed our only, dependence then was on the water in the little channel on the grassy plain; at this we arrived late on the afternoon of the 25th. Another day and we should again have been disappointed: the water on which I had calculated for a fortnight was all but gone. In the morning we drained almost the last drop out of the channel. We were now about 92 miles from the creek, without the apparent probability of relief till we should get to it, for it seemed hopeless to expect that we should find any water in the wells we had dug. Crossing the grassy plains on an east-north-east course, we passed the salt lake about 10 A.M. to our left, and ran along the sandy ridges between it and our encampment of the 15th, where we had made our second well, at 6 P.M., but it was dry and the bottom cracked and baked.

I would gladly have given my poor horses a longer rest than prudence would have justified, but we had not time for rest. At 8 we again mounted, and went slowly on; and when darkness closed around us lit a small lamp, and one of us walking in front led the way for the others to


  ― 55 ―
follow; thus tracking our way over those dreary regions all night long, we neared our last remaining well, 36 miles distant from the creek, just as morning dawned. Objects were still obscure as we approached the spot where our hopes rested, for our horses could hardly drag one foot after the other. Mr. Stuart was in front, and called to me that he saw the little trees under whose shade we had slept; soon after he said he saw something glittering where the well was, and immediately after shouted out, “Water, water.” It is impossible for me to record all this without a feeling of more than thankfulness to the Almighty Power that guided us. At this place we were still 180 miles from Fort Grey; and if we had not found this supply, it is more than probable the fate of our horses would have sealed our own. As it was we joyfully unsaddled, and, after watering, turned them out to feed. Singular it was that the well on which we had least dependence, and from which we had been longest absent, should thus have held out—but so it was. At 9 we resumed our journey, there being about half a gallon a-piece for the horses just before we started; but although this, and the short rest they had, had relieved them, they got on slowly; and it was not until after midnight of the 27th, A.M. indeed of the 28th, that we reached the creek, with two short of our complement of horses, the Roan and the Colt both having dropped on the plains, but fortunately at no great distance, so that we recovered them in the course of the day.




  ― 56 ―

It will naturally be supposed that, arrived at a place of safety, we here rested for a while; but my mind was no sooner relieved from one cause for anxiety, than it was filled with another. If I except the thunder-storm which had enabled me to undertake my late journey from the creek, no rain had fallen, the weather had suddenly become oppressively hot, with a sky as clear as ether. I had still the mountain range to the N.E. to examine, and the upper branches of the creek, and in this necessary survey I knew no time was to be lost. Indeed I doubted if my return to the Depôt was not already shut out, by the drying up of the water in Strzelecki's Creek, although I hoped Mr. Browne still held his ground; but not only was I anxious on these heads, but as to our eventual retreat from these heartless regions. I would gladly have rested for a few days, for I was beginning to feel weak. From the 20th of July, and it was now the last day but two of October, I had been in constant exercise from sunrise to sunset; and if I except the few days I had rested at the Depôt, had slept under the canopy of heaven. My food had been insufficient to support me, and I had a malady hanging upon me that was slowly doing its work; but I felt that I had no time to spare, and, as I could not justify indulgence to myself, so on the 29th we commenced our progress up the creek, but halted at six miles on a beautiful sheet of water, and with every promise of success. In the course of the day we


  ― 57 ―
passed a singularly large grave. It was twenty-three feet long, and fourteen broad. The boughs on the top of it were laid so as to meet the oval shape of the mound itself, but the trees were not carved, nor were there any walks about it, as I had seen in other parts of the continent.

Before we commenced our journey up the creek, I determined to secrete all the stores I could, in order to lighten the loads of the horses as much as possible, for they were now almost worn out; but it was difficult to say where we should conceal them, so as to be secure from the quick eyes of the natives. At first I thought my best plan would be to dig a hole and bury them, and then to light a fire, so as to obliterate the marks; but I changed my purpose, and placed them under a rhagodia


  ― 58 ―
bush, a short distance from the creek, and arranged some boughs all round it. In this place I hoped they would escape observation, for there were one or two things I should have exceedingly regretted to lose.

The weather had been getting warmer and warmer, and it had at this time become so hot that it was almost intolerable, worse indeed than at this season the previous year. The 30th was a day of oppressive heat, and the flies and mosquitoes were more than usually troublesome. I have not said much of these insects in the course of this narrative, for after all they are secondary objects only; but it is impossible to describe the ceaseless annoyance of these and a small ant. The latter swarmed in myriads in the creek and on the plains, and what with these little creatures at night, and the flies by day, we really had no rest. I continually wore a veil, or I could not have attended to our movements, or performed my duties. It is probable that being in the neighbourhood of water they were more numerous, but here they were a perfect plague, and in our depressed and wearied condition we, perhaps, felt their attacks more than we should otherwise have done. We commenced our journey at seven, and crossing the creek at three-quarters of a mile, ascended a small sand hill upon its proper left bank. Where we had crossed the channel was perfectly dry, but from the sand hill another magnificent sheet of water stretched away to the southeast as far as we could see.




  ― 59 ―

From this point the creek appeared to be bounded by forest land, partly scrubby and partly grassed. To the south there were flats seemingly subject to floods, and lightly timbered, and beyond these were low sand hills. To the S.W. a high line of trees marked the course of a tributary from that quarter. To the north the country was exceedingly sandy and low, as well as to the east; and the direction of the sand ridges was only 5° to the west of north, so that from this point to our extreme west they gradually alter their line 17°, as in 138° of longitude they ran 22° to the west of north. I was not able to take more than one bearing from the hill I had ascended, to a remarkable flat-topped hill nearly N.E. I now crossed the creek on an east course, and traversed sandy plains, and low undulations,


  ― 60 ―
there being a tolerable quantity of grass on both; and at four miles changed the route a little to the northward for a small conical sand hill, from which the flat-topped hill bore 41°, and from it some darker hills were visible, somewhat more to the eastward, and as they appeared to be different from the sand ridges, I again changed my course for them, and crossing the bed of the creek at four miles, ascended a small stony range trending to the eastward, the creek being directly at their base. Following up its proper left bank I ascended another part of the range at three miles and a half, from which the flat-topped hill bore 24°, and the last hill I had ascended 239°. The channel of the creek had been dry for several miles, but we now saw a large sheet of water bearing due east, distant two miles, to which we made our way, and then stopped. From the top of this range the creek seemed to pass over extensive and bare plains in many branches, southward there were some stony hills, treeless and herbless, like those nearer to us. I was fairly driven down to the valley by the flies, as numerous on the burning stones on the top of the hill as any where else, and I left a knife and a pocket handkerchief behind me. Notwithstanding the magnificent sheet of water we were now resting near, I began thus early to doubt the character of this creek. It had changed so often during the day, at one place having a broad channel, at another splitting into numerous small ones, having a


  ― 61 ―
great portion of its bed dry, and then presenting large and beautiful reaches to view, that I hardly knew what opinion to form of it; I also observed that it was leading away from the hills and taking us into a low and desolate region, almost as bad as that to the westward; however, time alone was to prove whether I was right in my surmises.

In the afternoon two natives made their appearance on the opposite side of the water, and I walked over to them, as I could not by any signs induce them to come to us. They were not bad looking men, and had lost their two front teeth of the upper jaw. To one I gave a tomahawk, and a hook to the other, but when I rose to depart, they gave them both back to me, and were astonished to find that I had intended them as presents. Seeing, I suppose, that we intended them no injury, these men in the morning went on with their ordinary occupations, and swimming into the middle of the water began to dive for mussels. They looked like two seals in the water with their black heads, and seemed to be very expert: at all events they were not long in procuring a breakfast.

Notwithstanding the misgivings I had as to the creek, the paths of the natives became wider and wider as we advanced. They were now as broad as a footpath in England, by a road side, and were well trodden; numerous huts of boughs also lined the creek, so that it was evident we were advancing into a well peopled country, and this circumstance


  ― 62 ―
raised my hopes that it would improve. As, however, our horses had no longer a gallop in them, we found it necessary to keep a sharp look out; although the natives with whom we had communicated, did not appear anxious to leave the place as they generally are to tell the news of our being on the creek to others above us.

On the 31st we started at 7 A.M, and at a mile and a half found ourselves at the termination of the stony ranges to our left. They fell back to the north, and a larger plain succeeded them. At two miles we crossed a small tributary, and passed over a stony plain, from which we entered an open box-tree forest extending far away to our left. At five miles and a half we found ourselves again on the banks of the creek, where it had an upper and a lower channel, that is to say, it had a lower channel for the stream, and an upper one independently of it. In the lower bed there was a little water, and we therefore stopped for a short time, the day being exceedingly hot. While here we saw a native at some water a little lower down, mending a net, but did not call to him. On resuming our journey we kept in the upper channel, and had not ridden very far when we saw a native about 150 yards ahead of us, pulling boughs. On getting nearer we called out to him, but to no purpose. At the distance of about 70 yards, we called out again, but still he did not hear, perhaps because of the rustling of the boughs he was breaking down. At


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length he bundled them up, and throwing them over his shoulder, turned from us to cross to the lower part of the creek, when suddenly he came bolt up against us. I cannot describe his horror and amazement,—down went his branches,—out went his hands,—and trembling from head to foot, he began to shout as loud as he could bawl. On this we pulled up, and I desired Mr. Stuart to dismount and sit down. This for a time increased the poor fellow's alarm, for he doubtless mistook man and horse for one animal, and he stretched himself out in absolute astonishment when he saw them separate. When Mr. Stuart sat down, however, he stood more erect, and he gradually got somewhat composed. His shouting had brought another black, who had stood afar off, watching the state of affairs, but who now approached. From these men I tried to gather some information, and my hopes were greatly raised from what passed between us, insomuch that one of the men could not help expressing his hope that we were now near the long sought for inland sea.

On my seeking to know, by signs, to what point the creek would lead us, the old man stretched out his hand considerably to the southward of east, and spreading out his fingers, suddenly dropped his hand, as if he desired us to understand that it commenced, as he shewed, by numerous little channels uniting into one not very far off. On asking if the natives used canoes, he threw himself into the


  ― 64 ―
attitude of a native propelling one, which is a peculiar stoop, in which he must have been practised. After going through the motions, he pointed due north, and turning the palm of his hand forward, made it sweep the horizon round to east, and then again put himself into the attitude of a native propelling a canoe. There certainly was no mistaking these motions. On my asking if the creek went into a large water, he intimated not, by again spreading out his hand as before and dropping it, neither did he seem to know anything of any hills. The direction he pointed to us, where there were large waters, was that over which the cold E.S.E. wind I have noticed, must have passed. This poor fellow was exceedingly communicative, but he did not cease to tremble all the while we were with him. After leaving him, the creek led us up to the northward of east, and we cut off every angle by following the broad and well beaten paths crossing from one to the other. At three miles I turned to ascend a conical sand hill, from whence the country appeared as follows: to the north were immense plains, with here and there a gum-tree on them; they were bounded in the distance by hills that I took to be the outer line of the range we purposed visiting; to the eastward the ground was undulating and woody; and southward, the prospect was bounded by low stony elevations, or a low range. The course of the creek was now north-east, in the direction of two distant sand hills. We now ran along it for


  ― 65 ―
seven miles, under an open box-tree forest, varying in breadth from a quarter of a mile to two miles; the creek frequently changed from a broad channel to a smaller one, but still having splendid sheets of water in it. At length, as we pushed up, it became sandy, and the lofty gum-trees that had ornamented it, gradually disappeared. Nevertheless we encamped on a beautiful spot.

The 1st of November broke bright and clear over us. Started at seven, the poor horses scarcely able to draw one leg after the other, the Roan having worn his hoof down the quick was exposed and raw, and he walked with difficulty. At a mile and a half we ascended an eminence, and to the eastward, saw a magnificent sheet of water to which we moved, and at five miles reached a low stony range, bounding the creek to the north; having ridden along a broad native path the whole of that distance, close to the edge of the above mentioned water. There were large rocks in the middle of it, and pelicans, one swan, several sea-gulls, and a number of cormorants on its bosom, together with many ducks, but none would let us within reach. We next ran on a bearing of 75°, or nearly east, along a large path, crossing numerous small branches of the creek, with deep and sandy beds, and occasionally over small stony plains. At noon we were at some distance from the creek, but then went towards it. The gum-trees were no longer visible, but melaleucas, from fifteen to twenty feet high, lined its banks like a copse of


  ― 66 ―
young birch. We now observed a long but somewhat narrow sheet of water, to which we rode; our suspicions as to its quality being roused by its colour, and the appearance of the melaleuca. It proved, as we feared, to be slightly brackish, but not undrinkable. Near the edge of the water, or rather about four or five feet from it, there was a belt of fine weeds, between which and the shore there were myriads of small fish of all sizes swimming, similar to those we had captured to the westward, in the fourth or O'Halloran's Creek. Here then was not only the clue as to how fish got into that isolated pond, but a proof of the westerly fall of the interior, since there was now no doubt whatever, but that the whole of the country Mr. Browne and I had traversed, even to the great sand hills on this side the Stony Desert, was laid under water, and by the overflow of this great creek filled the several creeks, and inundated the several plains that we had crossed. By so unexpected a fact, was this material point discovered. The Roan, at this time, could hardly walk, and not knowing when or at what distance we might again find water, or what kind of water it would be, I stopped on reaching the upper end of this pool, but even there it had a nasty taste, nor were any fish to be seen; a kind of weed covered the bed of the creek, and it looked like an inlet of the sea.

I was exceedingly surprised that we had not seen more natives, and momentarily expected to come on some large tribe, but did not, and what was very


  ― 67 ―
singular, all the paths were to the right, and none on the southern bank of the creek.

The weather continued intensely hot, and the flies swarmed in hundreds of thousands. The sky was without a cloud, either by day or night, and I could not but be apprehensive as to the consequences if rain should not fall; it was impossible that the largest pools could stand the rapid evaporation that was going on, but I did not deem it right to unburden my mind, even to Mr. Stuart, at this particular juncture.

On the morning of the 2nd of November the horses strayed for the first time, and delayed us for more than two hours, and we were after all indebted to three natives for their recovery, who had seen them and pointed out the direction in which they were. It really was a distressing spectacle to see them brought up, but their troubles and sufferings were not yet over. The Roan was hardly able to move along, and in pity I left him behind to wander at large along the sunny banks of the finest water-course we had discovered.

Starting at 10 A.M. we crossed the creek, and traversed a large sandy plain, intersected by numerous native paths, that had now become as wide as an ordinary gravel walk. From this plain we observed a thin white line along the eastern horizon. The plain itself was also of white sand, and had many stones upon it, similar in substance and shape to those on the Stony Desert, but there was, not


  ― 68 ―
withstanding, some grass upon it. A little above where we had slept, we struck a turn or angle of the creek where there was a beautiful sheet of water, but of a deep indigo blue colour. This was as salt as brine, insomuch that no animal could possibly have lived in it, and we observed water trickling into it from many springs on both sides. At four miles when we again struck the creek, after having crossed the plain, the water was perfectly fresh and sweet in a large pool close to which we passed. Here again there were several sea-gulls sitting on the rocks in the water, and a good many cormorants in the trees, yet I do not think there were any fish in this basin; I have no other reason for so thinking, however, than that we never saw any, either swimming in the water or rising to its surface in the coolness of evening on the sheets of fresh water. There might, however, have been fish of large size in the deep pools of this creek, although I would observe that I had two reasons for believing otherwise. The first was, that, the meshes of the nets used by the natives, of which we examined several hanging in the trees, were very small, and that among the fish bones at the natives' fires, we never saw any of a larger size than those we had ourselves captured, and it was evident that at this particular time, it was not the fishing season. I was led to think, that the water in which we noticed so many swimming about, was sacred, and that it is only when the creek overflows, that the fish are generally distributed along its whole line, that the natives


  ― 69 ―
take them. Certainly, to judge from the smooth and delicate appearance of the weeds round that sheet of water the fish were not disturbed.

We had been riding for some time on the proper left bank of the creek, but I at length crossed to the right and altered my course to E.S.E., but shortly afterwards ran due east across earthy plains covered with grass in tufts and very soft, but observing that I had got outside of the native tracks, and that there was no indication of the creek in front, I turned to the S.E. and at five miles struck a small sandy channel which I searched in vain for water; I therefore left it, crossing many similar channels still on a S.E. course; but observing that they all had level sandy beds, I gave up the hope of finding water in them and turned to the south, as the horses were not in a condition to suffer from want. At about two miles I ascended a sand hill, but could not see any thing of the creek; it was now getting late and two of the horses were hardly able to get along. Had we halted then, there was not a tree or a bush to which we could have tethered our animals, anxious too to get them to water I turned to the west, and at a mile got on a native path, that ultimately led me to the creek, and we pulled up at a small pond, where there was better feed than we had any right to expect.

We had hardly arranged our bivouac, when we heard a most melancholy howling over an earthen bank directly opposite to us, and saw seven black


  ― 70 ―
heads slowly advancing towards us. I therefore sent Mr. Stuart to meet the party and bring them up. The group consisted of a very old blind man, led by a younger one, and five women. They all wept most bitterly, and the women uttered low melancholy sounds, but we made them sit down and managed to allay their fears. It is impossible to say how old the man was, but his hair was white as snow, and he had one foot in the grave.

These poor creatures must have observed us coming, and being helpless, had I suppose thought it better to come forward, for they had their huts immediately on the other side of the bank over which they ventured. We gave the old man a great coat, as the most useful present, and he seemed delighted with it. I saw that it was hopeless to expect any information from this timid party, so I made no objection to their leaving us after staying for about half an hour. Our latitude here, by an altitude of Jupiter, was 27° 47' S.; our longitude by account 141° 51' E.

The plains we had crossed during the day were very extensive, stretching from the north-west, to the south-east, like an open sea. They were thinly scattered over with box-trees, and comprised hundreds of thousands of acres of flooded grassy land. It is worthy of remark that none of these plains existed to the south of the creek, in which quarter the country was very barren, neither were there any native paths. We were at this time


  ― 71 ―
in too low a position to see any of the mountain ranges of which I have spoken. As the old native with the boughs had told us, the creek led us to the southward of east, and consequently away from them, and I feared that his further information would prove correct, and that we should soon arrive at its commencement.

The morning of the 3rd of November was as cloudy as the night of the 2nd had been, during which it blew violently from the N.W., and a few heat-drops fell, but without effect on the temperature. One of the horses got bogged in attempting to drink, and Mack's illness made it nine before we mounted and resumed our journey up the creek, on a N.N.E. course, but it gradually came round to north. At six miles we crossed the small and sandy bed of a creek coming from the stony plains to the south, and beneath a tree, near two huts, observed a large oval stone. It was embedded in the ground, and was evidently used by the natives for pounding seeds. We now proceeded along a broad native path towards some gum-trees, having stony undulating hills upon our right. Underneath the trees there was a fine deep pool in the channel of the creek, which had again assumed something of its original shape; but as we were in an immense hollow or bowl, and the view was very limited, I branched off to the hills, then not more than half a mile distant. From their summit the country to the south and south-west appeared


  ― 72 ―
darkly covered with brush; to the west, there were numerous stony undulations; northward and to the east were immense grassy plains, with many creeks, all making for a common centre upon them. In the near ground to the south-east, the surface of the country was of fine white sand, partly covered with salsolaceous plants, with small fragments of stone, and patches of more grassy land. There was no fixed point on which to take a bearing, nor could we see anything of the higher ranges, now to the north-west of us.

In returning to the creek, we observed a body of natives to our left. They were walking in double file, and approaching us slowly. I therefore pulled up, and sent Mr. Stuart forward on foot, following myself with his horse. As he neared them the natives sat down, and he walked up and sat down in front of them. The party consisted of two chiefs and fourteen young men and boys. The former sat in front and the latter were ranged in two rows behind. The two chiefs wept as usual, and in truth shed tears, keeping their eyes on the ground; but Mr. Stuart, after the interview, informed me that the party behind were laughing at them and sticking their tongues in their cheeks. One of the chiefs was an exceedingly tall man, since he could not have measured less than six feet three inches, and was about 24 years of age. He was painted with red ochre, and his body shone as if he had been polished with Warren's best blacking. His companion was older


  ― 73 ―
and of shorter stature. We soon got on good terms with them, and I made a present of a knife to each. They told us, as intelligibly as it was possible for them to do, that we were going away from water; that there was no more water to the eastward, and, excepting in the creek, none anywhere but to the N.E. I had observed, indeed, that the native paths had altogether ceased on the side of the creek on which we then were (the south or left bank), and the chief pointed that fact out to me, explaining that we should have to cross the creek at the head of the water, under the trees, and get on a path that would lead us to the N.E. On this I rose up and mounting my horse, riding quietly towards it, descended into the bed of the creek, in which the natives had their huts, but their women and children were not there. The two chiefs and the other natives had followed, but, the former only crossed the creek and accompanied us. We almost immediately struck on the native path which, as my tall friend had informed me, led direct to the N.E.

I was not at first aware, what object our new friends had in following or rather accompanying us; but, at about a mile and a half, we came to a native hut at which there was an old man and his two lubras. The tall young man introduced him to us as his father, in consequence of which I dismounted, and shook hands with the old gentleman, and, as I had no hatchet or knife to give him, I parted my blanket and gave him half of it. We then pro


  ― 74 ―
ceeded on our journey, attended as before, and at a mile, came on two huts, at which there were from twelve to fifteen natives. Here again we were introduced by our long-legged friend, who kept pace with our animals with ease, and after a short parley once more moved on, but were again obliged to stop with another tribe, rather more numerous than the last, who were encamped on a dirty little puddle of water that was hardly drinkable; however, they very kindly asked us to stay and sleep, an honour I begged to decline. Thus, in the space of less than five miles, we were introduced to four different tribes, whose collective numbers amounted to seventy-one. The huts of these natives were constructed of boughs, and were of the usual form, excepting those of the last tribe, which were open behind, forming elliptic arches of boughs, and the effect was very pretty.

These good folks also asked us to stop, and I thought I saw an expression of impatience on the countenance of my guide when I declined, and turned my horse to move on. We had been riding on a sandy kind of bank, higher than the flooded ground around us. The plains extended on either side to the north and east, nor could we distinctly trace the creek beyond the trees at the point we had crossed it, but there were a few gum-trees separated by long intervals, that still slightly marked its course. When we left the last tribe, we rode towards a sand hill about half a mile in front, and had


  ― 75 ―
scarcely gone from the huts when our ambassadors, for in such a light I suppose I must consider them, set off at a trot and getting a-head of us disappeared over the sand hill. I was too well aware of the customs of these people, not to anticipate that there was something behind the scene, and I told Mr. Stuart that I felt satisfied we had not yet seen the whole of the population of this creek; but I was at a loss to conjecture why they should have squatted down at such muddy puddles, when there were such magnificent sheets of water for them to encamp upon, at no great distance; however, we reached the hill soon after the natives had gone over it, and on gaining the summit were hailed with a deafening shout by 3 or 400 natives, who were assembled in the flat below. I do not know, that my desire to see the savage in his wild state, was ever more gratified than on this occasion, for I had never before come so suddenly upon so large a party. The scene was one of the most animated description, and was rendered still more striking from the circumstance of the native huts, at which there were a number of women and children, occupying the whole crest of a long piece of rising ground at the opposite side of the flat.

I checked my horse for a short time on the top of the sand hill, and gazed on the assemblage of agitated figures below me, covering so small a space that I could have enclosed the whole under a casting net, and then quietly rode down into the flat, followed by Mr. Stuart and my men, to one


  ― 76 ―
of whom I gave my horse when I dismounted, and then walked to the natives, by whom Mr. Stuart and myself were immediately surrounded.

Had these people been of an unfriendly temper, we could not by any possibility have escaped them, for our horses could not have broken into a canter to save our lives or their own. We were therefore wholly in their power, although happily for us perhaps, they were not aware of it; but, so far from exhibiting any unkind feeling, they treated us with genuine hospitality, and we might certainly have commanded whatever they had. Several of them brought us large troughs of water, and when we had taken a little, held them up for our horses to drink; an instance of nerve that is very remarkable, for I am quite sure that no white man, (having never seen or heard of a horse before, and with the natural apprehension the first sight of such an animal would create,) would deliberately have walked up to what must have appeared to them most formidable brutes, and placing the troughs they carried against their breast, have allowed the horses to drink, with their noses almost touching them. They likewise offered us some roasted ducks, and some cake. When we walked over to their camp, they pointed to a large new hut, and told us we could sleep there, but I had noticed a little hillock on which there were four box-trees, about fifty yards from the native encampment, on which, foreseeing that we could go no farther, I had already determined to remain, and on my intimating this to the natives they appeared


  ― 77 ―
highly delighted; we accordingly went to the trees, and unsaddling our animals turned them out to feed. When the natives saw us quietly seated they came over, and brought a quantity of sticks for us to make a fire, wood being extremely scarce.

The men of this tribe were, without exception, the finest of any I had seen on the Australian Continent. Their bodies were not disfigured by any scars, neither were their countenances by the loss of any teeth, nor were they circumcised. They were a well-made race, with a sufficiency of muscular development, and stood as erect as it was possible to do, without the unseemly protrusion of stomach, so common among the generality of natives. Of sixty-nine who I counted round me at one time, I do not think there was one under my own height, 5 feet 10¾ inches, but there were several upwards of 6 feet. The children were also very fine, and I thought healthier and better grown than most I had seen, but I observed here, as elsewhere amongst smaller tribes, that the female children were more numerous than the males, why such should be the case, it is difficult to say. Whilst, however, I am thus praising the personal appearance of the men, I am sorry to say I observed but little improvement in the fairer sex. They were the same half-starved unhappy looking creatures whose condition I have so often pitied elsewhere.

These were a merry people and seemed highly delighted at our visit, and if one or two of them


  ― 78 ―
were a little forward, I laid it to the account of curiosity and a feeling of confidence in their own numbers. But a little thing checked them, nor did they venture to touch our persons, much less to put their hands into our pockets, as the natives appear to have done, in the case of another explorer. It is a liberty I never allowed any native to take, not only because I did not like it, but because I am sure it must have the effect of lowering the white man in the estimation of the savage, and diminishing those feelings of awe and inferiority, which are the European's best security against ill treatment. The natives told us, that there was no water to the eastward, and that if we went there we should all die. They explained that the creek commenced on the plains, by spreading out their fingers as the old man had done, to shew that many small channels made a large one, pointing to the creek, and they said the water was all gone to the place we had come from; meaning, to the lower part of it. On asking them by signs, if the creek continued beyond the plains, they shook their heads, and again put their extended hand on the ground, pointing to the plain. They could give us no account of the ranges to which I proposed going, any more than others we had asked. On inquiring, if there was any water to the north-west a long discussion took place, and it was ultimately decided that there was not. I could understand, that several of them mentioned the names of places where they supposed there might be water, but it was


  ― 79 ―
evidently the general opinion that there was none. Neither did they appear to know of any large waters, on which the natives had canoes, in confirmation of the old man's actions. On this interesting and important point they were wholly ignorant.

The smallness of the water-hole, on which these people depended, was quite a matter of surprise to me, and I hardly liked to let the horses drink at it, in consequence. At sunset all the natives left us (as is their wont at that hour), and went to their own encampment; nor did one approach us afterwards, but they sat up to a late hour at their own camp, the women being employed beating the seed for cakes, between two stones, and the noise they made was exactly like the working of a loom factory. The whole encampment, with the long line of fires, looked exceedingly pretty, and the dusky figures of the natives standing by them, or moving from one hut to the other, had the effect of a fine scene in a play. At 11 all was still, and you would not have known that you were in such close contiguity to so large an assemblage of people.

When I laid down, I revolved in my own mind what course I should pursue in the morning. If the account of the natives was correct, it was clear that my further progress eastward, was at an end. My horses, indeed, were now reduced to such a state, that I foresaw my labours were drawing to a close. Mack, too, was so ill, that he could hardly sit his animal, and although I did not anticipate any


  ― 80 ―
thing serious in his case, anything tending to embarrass was now felt by us. Mr. Stuart and Morgan held up well, but I felt myself getting daily weaker and weaker. I found that I could not rise into my saddle with the same facility, and that I lost wind in going up a bank of only a few feet in height. I determined, however, on mature consideration, to examine the plain, and to satisfy myself before I should turn back, as to the fact of the creek commencing upon it. Accordingly, in the morning, we saddled and loaded our horses, but none of the natives came to us until we had mounted; when they approached to take leave, and to persuade us not to go in the direction we proposed, but to no purpose. The pool from which they drew their supply of water, was in the centre of a broad shallow grassy channel, that passed the point of the sand hill we had ascended, and ran up to the northward and westward; we were, therefore, obliged to cross this channel, and soon afterwards got on the plains. They were evidently subject to flood, and were exceedingly soft and blistered; the grass upon them grew in tufts, not close, so that in the distance, the plains appeared better grassed than they really were. At length, we got on a polygonum flat of great size, in the soil of which our horses absolutely sunk up to the shoulder at every step. I never rode over such a piece of ground in my life, but we managed to flounder through it, until at length we got on the somewhat firmer but still heavy plain.


  ― 81 ―
It was very clear, however, that our horses would not go a day's journey over such ground. It looked exactly as I have described it—an immense concavity, with numerous small channels running down from every part, and making for the creek as a centre of union; nor, could we anywhere see a termination to it. Had the plain been of less extent, I might have doubted the information of the natives; but, looking at the boundless hollow around me, I did not feel any surprise that such a creek even as the one up which we had journeyed, should rise in it, and could easily picture to myself the rush of water there must be to the centre of the plain, when the ground has been saturated with moisture.

The day being far advanced, whilst we were yet pushing on, without any apparent termination to the heavy ground over which we were riding, I turned westward at 2 P.M., finding that the attainment of the object I had in view, in attempting to cross the plain, was a physical impossibility. We reached the water, at which the blind native visited us, a little after sunset, and were as glad as our poor animals could have been, when night closed in upon us, and our labours.

On the 5th, we passed the old man's camp, in going down the creek, instead of crossing the plains as before, and halted at the junction of a creek we had passed, that came from the north, and along the banks of which I proposed turning towards the ranges. On the morning of the 6th we kept the


  ― 82 ―
general course of this tributary, which ran through an undulating country of rocks and sand. Its channel was exceedingly capacious, and its banks were high and perpendicular, but everything about it, was sand or gravel. Its bed was perfectly level, and its appearance at once destroyed the hope of finding water in it.

The ground over which we rode, was, as I have stated, a mixture of gravel and rocks, and our horses yielded under us at almost every step as they trod on the sharp pointed fragments. At eight miles we reached the outer line of hills, as they had appeared to us in the distance, and entered a pass between two of them, of about a quarter of a mile in width. At this confined point there were the remains and ravages of terrific floods. The waters had reached from one side of the pass to the other, and the dead trunks of trees and heaps of rubbish, were piled up against every bush.

There was not a blade of vegetation to be seen either on the low ground or on the ranges, which were from 3 to 400 feet in height, and were nothing more than vast accumulations of sand and rocks. At a mile, we arrived at the termination of the pass, and found ourselves at the entrance of a barren, sandy valley, with ranges in front of us, similar to those we had already passed. I thought it advisable, therefore, to ascend a hill to my left, somewhat higher than any near it, to ascertain, if possible, the character of the northern interior. The task


  ― 83 ―
of clambering to the top of it however, was, in my then reduced state, greater than I expected, and I had to wait a few minutes before I could look about me after gaining the summit. I could see nothing, after all, to cheer me in the view that presented itself. To the northward was the valley in which the creek rises, bounded all round by barren, stony hills, like that on which I stood; and the summits of other similar hills shewed themselves above the nearer line. To the east the apparently interminable plains on which we had been, still met the horizon, nor was anything to be seen beyond them. Westward the outer line of hills continued backed by others, in the outlines of which we recognised the peaks and forms of the apparently lofty chain we first saw when we discovered the creek. Thus, then, it appeared, that I had been entirely deceived in the character of these hills, and that it had been the effect of refraction in those burning regions, which had given to these moderate hills their mountain-like appearance.

Satisfied that my horses had not the strength to cross such a country, and that in it I had not the slightest chance of procuring the necessary sustenance for them, I turned back to Cooper's Creek, and then deemed it prudent to travel quietly on towards the place at which we first struck it, and had subsequently left our surplus stores.

In riding amongst some rocky ground, we shot a new and beautiful little pigeon, with a long crest.


  ― 84 ―
The habits of this bird were very singular, for it never perched on the trees, but on the highest and most exposed rocks, in what must have been an intense heat; its flight was short like that of a quail, and it ran in the same manner through the grass when feeding in the evening. We reached our destination on the evening of the 8th, and were astonished to see how much the waters had shrunk from their previous level. Such an instance of the rapid diminution of so large a pool, made me doubt whether I should find any water in Strzelecki's Creek to enable me to regain the Depôt.

As we descended from the flats to cross over to our old berth, we found it occupied by a party of natives, who were disposed to be rather troublesome, especially one old fellow, whose conduct annoyed me exceedingly. However, I very soon got rid of them; and after strolling for a short time within sight of us, they all went up the creek; but I could not help thinking, from the impertinent pertinacity of these fellows, that they had discovered my magazine, and taken all the things, more especially as they had been digging where our fire had been, so that, if I had buried the stores there as intended, they would have been taken.

As soon as the natives were out of sight, Mr. Stuart and I went to the rhagodia bush for our things. As we approached, the branches appeared just as we had left them; but on getting near, we saw a bag lying outside, and I therefore concluded


  ― 85 ―
that the natives had carried off everything. Still, when we came up to the bush, nothing but the bag appeared to have been touched, all the other things were just as we left them, and, on examining the bag, nothing was missing. Concluding, therefore, that the natives had really discovered my store, but had been too honest to rob us, I returned to the creek in better humour with them; but, a sudden thought occurring to Mr. Stuart, that as there was an oil lamp in the bag, a native dog might have smelt and dragged it out of its place, we returned to the bush, to see if there were any impressions of naked feet round about it, but with the exception of our own, there were no tracks save those of a native dog. I was consequently obliged to give Mr. Stuart credit for his surmise, and felt somewhat mortified that the favourable impression I had received as to the honesty of the natives had thus been destroyed. They had gone up the creek on seeing that I was displeased, and we saw nothing more of them during the afternoon; but on the following morning they came to see us, and as they behaved well, I gave them a powder canister, a little box, and some other trifles; for after all there was only one old fellow who had been unruly, and he now shewed as much impatience with his companions as he had done with us, and I therefore set his manner down to the score of petulance.

At 10 A.M. on the 9th we prepared to move over to the branch creek, as I really required rest and quiet,


  ― 86 ―
and knew very well that as long as I remained where I was, we should be troubled by our sable friends, who, being sixteen in number, would require being well looked after. Before we finally left the neighbourhood, however, where our hopes had so often been raised and depressed, I gave the name of Cooper's Creek to the fine watercourse we had so anxiously traced, as a proof of my great respect for Mr. Cooper, the Judge of South Australia. I am not conversant in the language of praise, but thus much will I venture to say, that whether in his public or private capacity, Mr. Cooper was equally entitled to this record of my feelings towards him. I would gladly have laid this creek down as a river, but as it had no current I did not feel myself justified in so doing. Had it been nearer the located districts of South Australia, its discovery would have been a matter of some importance. As it is we know not what changes or speculations may lead the white man to its banks. Purposes of utility were amongst the first objects I had in view in my pursuit of geographical discovery; nor do I think that any country, however barren, can be explored without the attainment of some good end. Circumstances may yet arise to give a value to my recent labours, and my name may be remembered by after generations in Australia, as the first who tried to penetrate to its centre. If I failed in that great object, I have one consolation in the retrospect of my past services. My path amongst savage tribes has been a bloodless


  ― 87 ―
one, not but that I have often been placed in situations of risk and danger, when I might have been justified in shedding blood, but I trust I have ever made allowances for human timidity, and respected the customs and prejudices of the rudest people. I hope, indeed, that in this my last expedition, I have not done discredit to the good opinion Sir C. Napier, an officer I knew not, was pleased to entertain of me. Most assuredly in my intercourse with the savage, I have endeavoured to elevate the character of the white man. Justice and humanity have been my guides, but while I have the consolation to know that no European will follow my track into the Desert without experiencing kindness from its tenants, I have to regret that the progress of civilized man into an uncivilized region, is almost invariably attended with misfortune to its original inhabitants.

I struck Cooper's Creek in lat. 27° 44', and in long. 140° 22', and traced it upwards to lat. 27° 56', and long. 142° 00'. There can be no doubt but that it would support a number of cattle upon its banks, but its agricultural capabilities appear to me doubtful, for the region in which it lies is subject evidently to variations of temperature and seasons that must, I should say, be inimical to cereal productions; nevertheless I should suppose its soil would yield sufficient to support any population that might settle on it.




  ― 88 ―

3. Chapter III.

Continued drought—Terrific effect of hot wind— Thermometer bursts—Death of Poor Bawley—Find the stockade deserted—Leave Fort Grey for the Depôt—Difference of seasons—Migration of birds— Hot winds—Embarrassing position—Mr. Browne starts for Flood's Creek—Three bullocks shot— Commencement of the retreat—Arrival at Flood's Creek—State of vegetation—Effects of scurvy— Arrive at Rocky Glen—Comparison of native tribes—Halt at Carnapaga—Arrival at Cawndilla— Removal to the Darling—Leave the Darling—State of the river—Oppressive heat—Visited by Nadbuck —Arrival at Moorundi.

BY half past eleven of the 9th November we had again got quietly settled, and I then found leisure to make such arrangements as might suggest themselves for our further retreat. To insure the safety of the animals as much as possible, I determined to leave all my spare provisions and weightier stores behind, and during the afternoon we were engaged making the loads as compact and as light as we could.

It was not, however, the fear of the water in Strzelecki's Creck having dried up, that was at this moment the only cause of anxiety to me, for I thought it more than probable that Mr. Browne had been obliged to retreat from Fort Grey, in which case I should still have a journey before me to the old


  ― 89 ―
Depôt of 170 miles or more, under privations, to the horses at least, of no ordinary character; and I had great doubts as to the practicability of our final retreat upon the Darling. The drought had now continued so long, and the heat been so severe, that I apprehended we might be obliged to remain another summer in these fearful solitudes. The weather was terrifically hot, and appeared to have set in unusually early.

Under such circumstances, and with so many causes to render my mind anxious, the reader will believe I did not sleep much. The men were as restless as myself, so that we commenced our journey before the sun had risen on the morning of the 10th of November, to give the horses time to take their journey leisurely. Slowly we retraced our steps, nor did I stop for a moment until we had got to within five miles of our destination, at which distance we saw a single native running after us, and taking it into my head that he might be a messenger from Mr. Browne, I pulled up to wait for him, but curiosity alone had induced him to come forward. When he got to within a hundred yards, he stopped and approached no nearer. This little delay made it after sunset before we reached the upper pool (not the one Mr. Browne and I had discovered), and were relieved from present anxiety by finding a thick puddle still remaining in it, so that I halted for the night. Slommy, Bawley, and the colt had hard work to keep up with the other horses, and it


  ― 90 ―
really grieved me to see them so reduced. My own horse was even now beginning to give way, but I had carried a great load upon him.

As we approached the water, three ducks flew up and went off down the creek southwards, so I was cheered all night by the hope that water still remained at the lower pool, and that we should be in time to benefit by it. On the 11th, therefore, early we pushed on, as I intended to stop and breakfast at that place before I started for the Depôt. We had scarcely got there, however, when the wind, which had been blowing all the morning hot from the N.E., increased to a heavy gale, and I shall never forget its withering effect. I sought shelter behind a large gum-tree, but the blasts of heat were so terrific, that I wondered the very grass did not take fire. This really was nothing ideal: every thing, both animate and inanimate, gave way before it; the horses stood with their backs to the wind, and their noses to the ground, without the muscular strength to raise their heads; the birds were mute, and the leaves of the trees, under which we were sitting, fell like a snow shower around us. At noon I took a thermometer, graduated to 127°, out of my box, and observed that the mercury was up to 125°. Thinking that it had been unduly influenced, I put it in the fork of a tree close to me, sheltered alike from the wind and the sun. In this position I went to examine it about an hour afterwards, when I found that the


  ― 91 ―
mercury had risen to the top of the instrument, and that its further expansion had burst the bulb, a circumstance that I believe no traveller has ever before had to record. I cannot find language to convey to the reader's mind an idea of the intense and oppressive nature of the heat that prevailed. We had reached our destination however before the worst of the hot wind set in; but all the water that now remained in the once broad and capacious pool to which I have had such frequent occasion to call the attention of the reader, was a shining patch of mud nearly in the centre. We were obliged to dig a trench for the water to filter into during the night, and by this means obtained a scanty supply for our horses and ourselves.

About sunset the wind shifted to the west, a cloud passed over us, and we had heavy thunder; but a few drops of rain only fell. They partially cooled the temperature, and the night was less oppressive than the day had been. We had now a journey of 86 miles before us: to its results I looked with great anxiety and doubt. I took every precaution to fortify the horses, and again reduced the loads, keeping barely a supply of flour for a day or two. Before dawn we were up, and drained the last drop of water, if so it could be called, out of the little trench we had made, and reserving a gallon for the first horse that should fall, divided the residue among them. Just as the morning was breaking, we left the creek, and travelled for 36 miles. I then


  ― 92 ―
halted until the moon should rise, and was glad to see that the horses stood it well. At seven we resumed the journey, and got on tolerably well until midnight, when poor Bawley, my favourite horse, fell; but we got him up again, and abandoning his saddle, proceeded onwards. At a mile, however, he again fell, when I stopped, and the water revived him. I now hoped he would struggle on, but in about an hour he again fell. I was exceedingly fond of this poor animal, and intended to have purchased him at the sale of the remnants of the expedition, as a present to my wife. We sat down and lit a fire by him, but he seemed fairly worn out. I then determined to ride on to the Depôt, and if Mr. Browne should still be there, to send a dray with water to the relief of the men. I told them, therefore, to come slowly on, and with Mr. Stuart pushed for the camp. We reached the plain just as the sun was descending, without having dismounted from our horses for more than fifteen hours, and as we rode down the embankment into it, looked around for the cattle, but none were to be seen. We looked towards the little sandy mound on which the tents had stood, but no white object there met our eye; we rode slowly up to the stockade, and found it silent and deserted. I was quite sure that Mr. Browne had had urgent reasons for retiring. I had indeed anticipated the measure: I hardly hoped to find him at the Fort, and had given him instructions on the subject of his removal, yet a sickening


  ― 93 ―
feeling came over me when I saw that he was really gone; not on my own account, for, with the bitter feelings of disappointment with which I was returning home, I could calmly have laid my head on that desert, never to raise it again. The feeling was natural, and had no mixture whatever of reproach towards my excellent companion.

We dismounted and led our horses down to water before I went to the tree under which I had directed Mr. Browne to deposit a letter for me. A good deal of water still remained in the channel, but nevertheless a large pit had been dug in it as I had desired. I did not drink, nor did Mr. Stuart, the surface of the water was quite green, and the water itself was of a red colour, but I believe we were both thinking of any thing but ourselves at that moment. As soon as we had unsaddled the horses, we went to the tree and dug up the bottle into which, as agreed upon, Mr. Browne had put a letter; informing me that he had been most reluctantly obliged to retreat; the water at the Depôt having turned putrid, and seriously disagreed with the men; he said that he should fall back on the old Depôt along the same line on which we had advanced, and expressed his fears that the water in Strzelecki's Creek would have dried, on the permanence of which he knew our safety depended. Under present circumstances the fate of poor Bawley, if not of more of our horses, was sealed. Mr. Stuart and I sat down by the stockade, and as night closed in lit a fire to guide Morgan and Mack on their


  ― 94 ―
approach to the plain. They came up about 2 P.M. having left Bawley on a little stony plain, and the Colt on the sand ridges nearer to us, and in the confusion and darkness had left all the provisions behind; it therefore became necessary to send for some, as we had not had anything for many hours. The horses Morgan and Mack had ridden were too knocked up for further work, but I sent the latter on my own horse with a leather bottle that had been left behind by the party, full of water for poor Bawley, if he should still find him alive. Mack returned late in the afternoon, having passed the Colt on his way to the Depôt, towards which he dragged himself with difficulty, but Bawley was beyond recovery; he gave the poor animal the water, however, for he was a humane man, and then left him to die.

We had remained during the day under a scorching heat, but could hardly venture to drink the water of the creek without first purifying it by boiling, and as we had no vessel until Mack should come up we had to wait patiently for his arrival at 7 P.M. About 9 we had a damper baked, and broke our fast for the first time for more than two days.

While sitting under a tree in the forenoon Mr. Stuart had observed a crow pitch in the little garden we had made, but which never benefited us, since the sun burnt up every plant the moment it appeared above the ground. This bird scratched for a short time in one of the soft beds, and then flew away with something in his bill. On going to the spot


  ― 95 ―
Mr. Stuart scraped up a piece of bacon and some suet, which the dogs of course had buried. These choice morsels were washed and cooked, and Mr. Stuart brought me a small piece of bacon, certainly not larger than a dollar, which he assured me had been cut out of the centre and was perfectly clean. I had not tasted the bacon since February, nor did I now feel any desire to do so, but I ate it because I thought I really wanted it in the weak state in which I was.

Perhaps a physician would laugh at me for ascribing the pains I felt the next morning to so trifling a cause, but I was attacked with pains at the bottom of my heels and in my back. Although lying down I felt as if I was standing balanced on stones; these pains increased during the day, insomuch that I anticipated some more violent attack, and determined on getting to the old Depôt as soon as possible; but as the horses had not had sufficient rest, I put off my journey to 5 P.M. on the following day, when I left Fort Grey with Mr. Stuart, directing Mack and Morgan to follow at the same hour on the following day, and promising that I would send a dray with water to meet them. I rode all that night until 3 P.M. of the 17th, when we reached the tents, which Mr. Browne had pitched about two miles below the spot we had formerly occupied. If I except two or three occasions on which I was obliged to dismount to rest my back for a few minutes we rode without stopping, and might truly be said to have been twenty hours on horseback.




  ― 96 ―

Sincere I believe was the joy of Mr. Browne, and indeed of all hands, at seeing us return, for they had taken it for granted that our retreat would have been cut off. I too was gratified to find that Mr. Brown was better, and to learn that everything had gone on well. Davenport had recently been taken ill, but the other men had recovered on their removal from the cause of their malady.

When I dismounted I had nearly fallen forward. Thinking that one of the kangaroo dogs in his greeting had pushed me between the legs, I turned round to give him a slap, but no dog was there, and I soon found out that what I had felt was nothing more than strong muscular action brought on by hard riding.

As I had promised I sent Jones with a dray load of water to meet Morgan and Mack, who came up on the 19th with the rest of the horses.

Mr. Browne informed me that the natives had frequently visited the camp during my absence. He had given them to understand that we were going over the hills again, on which they told him that if he did not make haste all the water would be gone. It now behoved us therefore to effect our retreat upon the Darling with all expedition. Our situation was very critical, for the effects of the drought were more visible now than before the July rain,—no more indeed had since fallen, and the water in the Depôt creek was so much reduced that we had good reason to fear that none remained anywhere else. On the 18th I sent Flood to a small creek,


  ― 97 ―
between us and the Pine forest, but he returned on the following day with information that it had long been dry. Thus then were my fears verified, and our retreat to the Darling apparently cut off. About this time too the very elements, against which we had so long been contending, seemed to unite their energies to render our stay in that dreadful region still more intolerable. The heat was greater than that of the previous summer; the thermometer ranging between 110° and 123° every day; the wind blowing heavily from N.E. to E.S.E. filled the air with impalpable red dust, giving the sun the most foreboding and lurid appearance as we looked upon him. The ground was so heated that our matches falling on it, ignited; and, having occasion to make a night signal, I found the whole of our rockets had been rendered useless, as on being lit they exploded at once without rising from the ground.

I had occasion—in the first volume of this work— to remark that I should at a future period have to make some observations on the state of the vegetation at this particular place; there being about a month or six weeks difference between the periods of the year when we first arrived at, and subsequently returned to it. When we first arrived on the 27th of January, 1845, the cereal grasses had ripened their seed, and the larger shrubs were fast maturing their fruit; the trees were full of birds, and the plains were covered with pigeons—


  ― 98 ―
having nests under every bush. At the close of November of the same year—that is to say six weeks earlier— not an herb had sprung from the ground, not a bud had swelled, and, where the season before the feathered tribes had swarmed in hundreds on the creek, scarcely a bird was now to be seen. Our cattle wandered about in search for food, and the silence of the grave reigned around us day and night.

Was it instinct that warned the feathered races to shun a region in which the ordinary course of nature had been arrested, and over which the wrath of the Omnipotent appeared to hang? Or was it that a more genial season in the country to which they migrate, rendered their desertion of it at the usual period unnecessary? Most sincerely do I hope that the latter was the case, and that a successful destiny will await the bold and ardent travellernote who is now crossing those regions.

On the 20th I sent Flood down the creek to ascertain if water remained in it or the farther holes mentioned by the natives, thinking that in such a case we might work our way to the eastward; but on the 23rd he returned without having seen a drop of water from the moment he left us. The deep and narrow channel I had so frequently visited, and which I had hoped might still contain water, had long been dry, and thus was our retreat cut off in that quarter also. There was


  ― 99 ―
apparently no hope for us—its last spark had been extinguished by this last disappointment; but the idea of a detention in that horrid desert was worse than death itself.

On the morning of the 22nd the sky was cloudy and the sun obscure, and there was every appearance of rain. The wind was somewhat to the south of west, the clouds came up from the north, and at ten a few drops fell; but before noon the sky was clear, and a strong and hot wind was blowing from the west: the dust was flying in clouds around us, and the flies were insupportable.

At this time Mr. Stuart was taken ill with pains similar to my own, and Davenport had an attack of dysentery.

On the 23rd it blew a fierce gale and a hot wind from west by north, which rendered us still more uncomfortable: nothing indeed could be done without risk in such a temperature, and such a climate. The fearful position in which we were placed, caused me great uneasiness; the men began to sicken, and I felt assured that if we remained much longer, the most serious consequences might be apprehended.

On the 24th, Mr. Browne went with Flood to examine a stony creek about 16 miles to the south, and on our way homewards. We had little hope that he would find any water in it, but if he did, a plan had suggested itself, by which we trusted to effect our escape. It being impossible to stand the outer heat, the men were obliged to take whatever


  ― 100 ―
things wanted repair, to our underground room, and I was happy to learn from Mr. Stuart, who I sent up to superintend them, that the natives had not in the least disturbed Mr. Poole's grave.

On the 25th Mr. Browne returned, and returned unsuccessful: he could find no water any where, and told me it was fearful to ride down the creeks and to witness their present state.

We were now aware that there could be no water nearer to us than 118 miles, i. e. at Flood's Creek, and even there it was doubtful if water any longer remained. To have moved the party on the chance of finding it would have been madness: the weather was so foreboding, the heat so excessive, and the horses so weak, that I did not dare to trust them on such a journey, or to risk the life of any man in such an undertaking. I was myself laid up, a helpless being, for I had gradually sunk under the attack of scurvy which had so long hung upon me. The day after I arrived in camp I was unable to walk: in a day or two more, my muscles became rigid, my limbs contracted, and I was unable to stir; gradually also my skin blackened, the least movement put me to torture, and I was reduced to a state of perfect prostration. Thus stricken down, when my example and energies were so much required for the welfare and safety of others, I found the value of Mr. Browne's services and counsel. He had already volunteered to go to Flood's Creek to ascertain if water was still to be procured in it, but


  ― 101 ―
I had not felt justified in availing myself of his offer. My mind, however, dwelling on the critical posture of our affairs, and knowing and feeling as I did the value of time, and that the burning sun would lick up any shallow pool that might be left exposed, and that three or four days might determine our captivity or our release, I sent for Mr. Browne, to consult with him as to the best course to be adopted in the trying situation in which we were placed, and a plan at length occurred by which I hoped he might venture on the journey to Flood's Creek without risk. This plan was to shoot one of the bullocks, and to fill his hide with water. We determined on sending this in a dray, a day in advance, to enable the bullock driver to get as far as possible on the road, we then arranged that Mr. Browne should take the light cart, with 36 gallons of water, and one horse only; that on reaching the dray, he should give his horse as much water as he would drink from the skin, leaving that in the cart untouched until he should arrive at the termination of his second day's journey, when I proposed he should give his horse half the water, and leaving the rest until the period of his return, ride the remainder of the distance he had to go. I saw little risk in this plan, and we accordingly acted upon it immediately: the hide was prepared, and answered well, since it easily contained 150 gallons of water. Jones proceeded on the morning of the 27th, and on the 28th Mr. Browne


  ― 102 ―
left me on this anxious and to us important journey, accompanied by Flood. We calculated on his return on the eighth day, and the reader will judge how anxiously those days passed. On the day Mr. Browne left me, Jones returned, after having deposited the skin at the distance of 32 miles.

On the eighth day from his departure, every eye but my own was turned to the point at which they had seen him disappear. About 3 P.M., one of the men came to inform me that Mr. Browne was crossing the creek, the camp being on its left bank, and in a few minutes afterwards he entered my tent. “Well, Browne,” said I, “what news? Is it to be good or bad?” “There is still water in the creek,” said he, “but that is all I can say. What there is is as black as ink, and we must make haste, for in a week it will be gone.” Here then the door was still open,—a way to escape still practicable, and thankful we both felt to that Power which had directed our steps back again ere it was finally closed upon us; but even now we had no time to lose: to have taken the cattle without any prospect of relief until they should arrive at Flood's Creek, would have been to sacrifice almost the whole of them, and to reduce the expedition to a condition such as I did not desire. The necessary steps to be taken, in the event of Mr. Browne's bringing back good tidings, had engaged my attention during his absence, and with his assistance, that on which I had determined was immediately put into execution. I directed three


  ― 103 ―
more bullocks to be shot, and their skins prepared; and calculated that by abandoning the boat and our heavier stores, we might carry a supply of water on the drays, sufficient for the use of the remaining animals on the way. Three bullocks were accordingly killed, and the skins stripped over them from the neck downwards, so that the opening might be as small as possible.

The boat was launched upon the creek, which I had vainly hoped would have ploughed the waters of a central sea. We abandoned our bacon and heavier stores, the drays were put into order, their wheels wedged up, their axles greased, and on the 6th of December, at 5 P.M., we commenced our retreat, having a distance of 270 miles to travel to the Darling, and under circumstances which made it extremely uncertain how we should terminate the journey, since we did not expect to find any water between Flood's Creek and the Rocky Glen, or between the Rocky Glen and the Darling itself. The three or four days preceding our departure had been quite overpowering, neither did there seem to be a likelihood of any abatement of the heat when we left the Depôt. At 5 A.M. of the morning of the 7th, having travelled all night, I halted to rest the men and animals. We had then the mortification to find one of the skins was defective, and let out the water at an hundred different pores. I directed the water that remained in the skin to be given to the stock rather than that it


  ― 104 ―
should be lost; but both horses and bullocks refused it. During the first part of the night it was very oppressive; but about an hour after midnight the wind shifted to the south, and it became cooler. We resumed our journey at 7, and did not again halt until half past 12 P.M. of the 8th, having then gained the Muddy Lagoon, at which the reader will recollect we stopped for a short time after breaking through the Pine forest about the same period the year before; but as there was nothing for the animals to eat, I took them across the creek and put them upon an acre or two of green feed along its banks. I observed that the further we advanced southwards, the more forward did vegetation appear; Mr. Browne made the same remark to me on his return from Flood's Creek, where he found the grasses ripe, whereas at the Depôt Creek the ground was still perfectly bare.

About 3 A.M. we had a good deal of thunder and lightning, and at 7 the wind shifted a point or two to the eastward of south. Notwithstanding the quarter from which the wind blew, heavy clouds came up from the west, and about 11 we had a misty rain with heavy thunder and lightning. The rain was too slight to leave any puddles, but it moistened the dry grass, which the animals greedily devoured.

On leaving the creek we kept for about eight miles on our old track, but at that distance turned due south for two hills, the position of which Mr. Browne


  ― 105 ―
had ascertained on his recent journey, and by taking this judicious course avoided the Pine ridges altogether. We were, however, obliged to halt, as the moon set, in the midst of an open brush, but started again at day-break on the morning of the 9th.

Before we left the creek, near the Muddy Lagoon, all the horses and more than one half of the bullocks had drank plentifully of the water in the hides, in consequence of which they got on tolerably well. On resuming our journey we soon cleared the remainder of the scrub, and got into a more open sandy country, but the travelling on it was good; and at 20 minutes to two we halted within a mile of the hills towards which we had been moving, then about 26 miles from Flood's Creek. Being in great pain I left Mr. Browne at half-past three P.M., and reached our destination at midnight. Two hours afterwards Mr. Browne came up with the rest of the party. So we completed our first stage without the loss of a single animal; but had it not been for the slight rain that fell on the morning of the 8th, and the subsequent change of temperature, none of our bullocks could have survived the journey thus far.

As it had occupied three nights and two days, it became necessary to give both men and animals a day of rest. I could not however be so indulgent to Mr. Browne or to Flood. The next place at which we hoped to find water, was at the Rocky Gully at the foot of the ranges, distant 49 miles, if


  ― 106 ―
water failed us there, neither had Mr. Browne or Flood any reasonable expectation that we should procure any until we gained the Darling itself, then distant 150 miles. Mr. Browne was himself suffering severely from attacks of scurvy, but he continued with unwearied zeal to supply my place. On the 11th, at one P.M, he left me for the hills, but before he started we arranged that he should return and meet me half way whether he succeeded in finding water or not, and in order to ensure this I proposed leaving the Creek on the 13th.

As Mr. Browne had informed me, we found the vegetation much more forward at this place than we had hitherto seen it, still many of the grasses were invisible, not having yet sprung up, but there was a solitary stool of wheat that had been accidentally dropped by us and had taken root, which had 13 fine heads upon it quite ripe. These Mr. Browne gathered, and, agreeably to my wishes, scattered the seed about in places where he thought it would be most likely to grow. There was also a single stool of oats but it was not so fine as the wheat.

On the 12th, at 2 P.M., Flood suddenly returned, bringing information that Mr. Browne had unexpectedly found water in the lower part of a little rocky creek in our way, distant 18 miles, and that he was gone on to the Rocky Gully. On receiving this intelligence I ordered the bullocks to be yoked up, and we started for the creek at which we had left the cart on our outward journey, at 7 P.M. It was


  ― 107 ―
blowing heavily at the time from the S.W. and large clouds passed over us, but the sky cleared as the wind fell at midnight. We reached our destination at 3 A.M. of the 13th. Here I remained until half-past six when we again started and gained the Horse-cart Creek at half-past twelve. Here, as at Flood's Creek, we found a large plant of mustard and some barley in ear and ripe, where few of the native grasses had more than made their appearance out of the ground

Stopping to rest the animals for half an hour, I went myself to the little branch creek, on which the reader will recollect our cattle depended when we were last in this neighbourhood, and where I had arranged to meet Mr. Browne, who arrived there about half an hour before me. He had again been successful in finding a large supply of water in the Rocky Gully, and thought that rain must have fallen on the hills.

At 4 the teams again started, but I was too unwell to accompany them immediately. I had in truth lost the use of my limbs, and from the time of our leaving the Depôt had been lifted in and out of the cart; constant jolting therefore had greatly fatigued me, and I found it necessary to stop here for a short time after the departure of the drays. At half-past six however, we followed and overtook the party about five miles from the gully, where we halted at 3 A M. of the 14th.

Mr. Browne had found a large party of natives at the water, who had been very kind to him, and many


  ― 108 ―
of them still remained when we came up. He had observed some of them eating a small acid berry, and had procured a quantity for me in the hope that they would do me good, and while we remained at this place he good-naturedly went into the hills and gathered me a large tureen full, and to the benefit I derived from these berries I attribute my more speedy recovery from the malady under which I was suffering. We were now 116 miles from the Darling, and although there was no longer any doubt of our eventually reaching it, the condition in which we should do so, depended on our finding water in the Coonbaralba pass, from which we were distant 49 miles. In the evening I sent Flood on ahead to look for water, with orders to return if he succeeded in his search. In consequence of the kindness of the natives to Mr. Browne I made them some presents and gave them a sheep, which they appeared to relish greatly. They were good-looking blacks and in good condition, speaking the language of the Darling natives.

It was late on the 15th before we ascended the ranges; but, as I had only a limited distance to go it was not of much consequence, more especially as I purposed halting at the little spring, in the upper part of the Rocky Gully, at which Morgan and I stopped on a former occasion, when Mr. Browne and Flood were looking for a place by which we could descend from the hills to the plains of the desert interior. Mr. Browne took the short cut up


  ― 109 ―
the gully with the sheep; but when I reached the glen he had not arrived, and as he did not make his appearance for some time I became anxious, and sent after him, but he had only been delayed by the difficulty of the road, along which he described the scenery as very bold and picturesque.

We had not up to this time experienced the same degree of heat that prevailed at the Depôt. The temperature since the thunder on the 8th had been comparatively mild, and on ascending the hills we felt a sensible difference. I attributed it, however, to our elevated position, for we had on our way up the country experienced the nature of the climate of the Darling. We could not decidedly ascertain the fact from the natives, but as they were at this place in considerable numbers, both Mr. Browne and myself concluded that the river had not been flooded this year; neither had the season been the same as that of the former year, for it will be remembered that at the period the party crossed the ranges, a great deal of rain had fallen, in so much that the wheels of the drays sunk deep into the ground; but now they hardly left an impression, as they moved over it; and although more rain might have fallen on the hills than in the depressed region beyond them, it was clear that none had fallen for a considerable length of time in this neighbourhood.

Mr. Browne saw five or six rock Wallabies as he was coming up the glen, and said they were


  ― 110 ―
beautiful little animals. He remarked that they bounded up the bold cliffs near him with astonishing strength and activity; in some places there were basaltic columns, resting on granite, 200 and 300 feet high.

Flood returned at 4 A.M. having found water, though not of the best description, in the pass. His horse had, however, drank plentifully of it, so that I determined on pushing from that point to Cawndilla, hoping by good management to secure the cattle reaching it in safety.

Considering the distance we had to go we started late, but the bullocks had strayed down the creek, and it took some time to drive them over such rugged ground.

I preceded the party in the cart, leaving Mr. Browne in charge of the drays, and crossing the ranges descended into the pass two hours after sunset. We passed a brackish pool of water, and stopped at a small well, at which there were two native women. The party came up about two hours after midnight, the men and animals being greatly fatigued, so that it was absolutely necessary to remain stationary for a day. Our retreat had been a most harassing one, but it admitted of no hesitation. Though we had thus far, under the blessing of Providence, brought every thing in safety, and had now only one more effort to make, Cawndilla was still distant 69 miles, between


  ― 111 ―
which and our position there was not a drop of water.

One of the women we found here, came and slept at our fire, and managed to roll herself up in Mr. Browne's blanket, who, waking from cold, found that his fair companion had uncovered him, and appropriated the blanket to her own use. The natives suffer exceedingly from cold, and are perfectly paralysed by it, for they are not provided with any covering, neither are their huts of a solidity or construction such as to protect them from its effects. About noon a large tribe joined us from the S.W. and we had a fine opportunity to form a judgment of them, when contrasted with the natives of the Desert from which we had come. Robust, active, and full of life, these hill natives were every way superior to the miserable half-starved beings we had left behind, if I except the natives of Cooper's Creek. During the day they kept falling in upon us, and in the afternoon mustered more than one hundred strong, in men, women, and children. As they were very quiet and unobtrusive I gave them a couple of sheep, with which they were highly delighted, and in return, they overwhelmed our camp at night with their women.

I mentioned in a former part of this work, that Mr. Browne and I had succeeded in capturing a Dipus, when journeying to the N.W. We had subsequently taken another, and had kept them


  ― 112 ―
both for some time, but one died, and the other springing out of its box was killed by the dogs. From the habits of this animal I did not expect to succeed in taking it home, but I had every hope that some Jerboas, of which we had five, would outlive the journey, for they thrived well on the food we gave them. I was, however, quite provoked at this place to find that two of them had died from the carelessness of the men throwing the tarpauline over the box, and so smothering them. The survivors were all but dead when looked at, and I feared we should lose them also.

As the morning of the 19th dawned, and distant objects became visible, the plains of the Darling gradually spread out before us. We commenced our journey to Cawndilla at half-past 7, and travelled down the creek until 2 P.M., when we halted for two hours during the heat of the day at Carnapaga. At 4 we resumed our journey, and again stopped for an hour on the little sand hill at the lower part of the creek, to enable the men to take some refreshment. At quarter-past 8 we turned from the creek and travelled all night by the light of a lamp, and at daylight were 18 miles from Cawndilla. We had kept upon our former tracks, on which the cattle had moved rapidly along, but they now began to flag. Mr. Browne was in front of the party with Mr. Stuart, but he suddenly returned, and coming up to my cart gave me a


  ― 113 ―
letter he had found nailed up to a tree by Mr. Piesse. This letter was to inform me of his arrival on the banks of the Williorara on the 6th of the month, of his having been twice on the road in the hope of seeing us, and sent natives to procure intelligence of us, who returned in so exhausted a state, that he had given up all expectation of our being able to cross the hills. He stated that we should find a barrel of water a little further on, together with a letter from head quarters, but had retained all other letters until he should see me; nevertheless, he had the gratification to tell me that he had seen Mrs. Sturt the day before he left Adelaide, and that she was well. About a mile further on, we found the barrel of water, and relieved our suffering horses, and thus benefited by the prudent exertions of Mr. Piesse. Nothing, indeed, appeared to have escaped the anxious solicitude of that zealous officer to relieve our wants.

I reached Cawndilla at 9 A.M. and stopped on the banks of the Williorara at the dregs of a water-hole, about six inches deep, it being all that remained in the creek, but I was too much fatigued to push on to the Darling, a further distance of seven miles, where Mr. Piesse then was. The drays came up a little after noon; the cattle almost frantic from the want of water. It was with difficulty the men unyoked them, and the moment they were loose they plunged headlong into the creek and drank greedily of the putrid water that remained.




  ― 114 ―

Amongst the letters I now received was one from the Colonial Secretary, informing me, that supplies had been forwarded to the point I had specified, according to the request contained in my letter of July; that my further suggestions had been acted upon, and that the Governor had availed himself of Mr. Piesse's services again, to send him in charge of the party: thus satisfied that he was on the Darling, I sent Mr. Browne and Mr. Stuart in advance, to apprise him of our approach.

On their arrival at his camp Mr. Piesse lost no time in repairing to me, and I shall not readily forget the unaffected joy he evinced at seeing me again. He had maintained a friendly intercourse with the natives, and had acquitted himself in a manner, as creditable to himself, as it had been beneficial to me.

Mr. Piesse was the bearer of numerous letters from my family and friends, and I was in some measure repaid for the past, by the good intelligence they conveyed: that my wife and children were well, and the colony was in the most flourishing condition,—since, during my absence, that stupendous mine had been discovered, which has yielded such profit to the owners—and the pastoral pursuits of the colonists were in an equally flourishing condition. Mr. Browne, too, received equally glad tidings from his brother, who informed him of his intention to meet the party on its way homewards.

On the 21st I moved over to the Darling; and


  ― 115 ―
found a number of natives at the camp, and amongst them the old Boocolo of Williorara, who was highly delighted at our return.

Mr. Piesse had constructed a large and comfortable hut of boughs—which was much cooler than canvass. In this we made ourselves comfortable, and I hoped that the numerous and more generous supplies of eatables and drinkables than those to which we had been accustomed would conduce to our early restoration to health. I could not but fancy that the berries Mr. Browne had procured for me, and of which I had taken many, were beginning to work beneficially— although I was still unable to move. As I proposed remaining stationary until after Christmas Day, I deemed it advisable to despatch messengers with letters for the Governor, advising him of my safety, and to relieve the anxiety of my family and friends. Mr. Browne accordingly made an agreement with two natives, to take the letter-bag to the Anabranch of the Darling, and send it on to Lake Victoria by other natives, who were to be rewarded for their trouble. For this service our messengers were to receive two blankets and two tomahawks, and the bag being closed they started off with it. I had proposed to Mr. Browne to be himself the bearer of it, but he would not leave me, even now. In order, therefore, to encourage the messengers, I gave them in advance the tomahawks they were to have received on their return. Our tent was generally full


  ― 116 ―
of natives; some of them very fine young men, especially the two sons of the Boocolo. Topar made his appearance two or three days after our arrival, but Toonda was absent on the Murray: the former, however, having been detected in attempting a theft, I had him turned out of the tent and banished the camp. The old Boocolo came daily to see us, and as invariably laid down on the lower part of my mattrass.

On the 23rd I sent Mr. Stuart to verify his former bearings on Scrope's Range, and Mr. Browne kindly superintended the chaining of the distance between a tree I had marked on the banks of the Darling and Sir Thomas Mitchell's last camp. This tree was about a quarter of a mile below the junction of the Williorara, and had cut on it, [G. A. E., Dec. 24, 1843,] the distance between the two points was three miles and 20 chains.

The 25th being Christmas Day, I issued a double allowance to the men, and ordered that preparations should be made for pushing down the river on the following morning. About 2 P.M. we were surprised at the return of our two messengers, who insisted that they had taken the letter-bag to the point agreed upon, although it was an evident impossibility that they could have done so. I therefore evinced my displeasure and refused to give them the blankets —for which, nevertheless, they greatly importuned me. Mr. Browne, however, explained to the Boocolo why I refused, and charged the natives with having secreted it somewhere or other. On this there was


  ― 117 ―
a long consultation with the natives, which terminated in the Boocolo's two sons separating from the others, and talking together for a long time in a corner of my hut; they then came forward and said, that my decision was perfectly just, for that the men had not been to the place agreed upon, but had left the bag of letters with a tribe on the Darling, and therefore, that they had been fully rewarded by the present of the tomahawks. This decided opinion settled the dispute at once, and the parties quietly acquiesced.

I had, as stated, been obliged to turn Topar out of my tent, and expel him the camp for theft, but at the same time Mr. Browne explained to the natives why I did so, and told them that I should in like manner expel any other who so transgressed, and they appeared fully to concur in the justice of my conduct. There is no doubt indeed but that they punish each other for similar offences, although perhaps the moral turpitude of the action is not understood by them.

The Darling at this time had ceased to flow, and formed a chain of ponds. The Williorara was quite dry from one end to the other, as were the lagoons and creeks in the neighbourhood. The natives having cleared the river of the fish that had been brought down by the floods, now subsisted for the most part on herbs and roots of various kinds, and on the caterpillar of the gum-tree moth, which they procured out of the ground with their switches, having a hook at the end. I do not think they could


  ― 118 ―
procure animal food in the then state of the country, there being no ducks or kangaroos in the neighbourhood, in any great quantity at all events.

I thus early began to feel the benefit of a change of diet in the diminished rigidity of my limbs, and therefore entertained great hopes that I should yet be able to ride into Adelaide. The men too generally began to recover from their fatigues, but both Mr. Browne and Mr. Stuart continued to complain of shooting pains in their limbs. The party and the animals however being sufficiently recruited to enable us to resume our progress homewards, we broke up our camp at the junction of the Williorara on the 26th of the month as I had proposed, under more favourable circumstances than we could have expected, the weather being beautifully fine and the temperature pleasant. When I was carried out of my tent to the cart, I was surprised to see the verdure of that very ground against the barrenness of which I had had to declaim the preceding year; I mean the flats of the Williorara, now covered with grass, and looking the very reverse of what they had done before; so hazardous is it to give an opinion of such a country from a partial glimpse of it. The incipient vegetation must have been brought forth by flood or heavy rains.

We passed two tribes of natives, with whom we staid for a short time as the old Boocolo was with us. Amongst these natives we did not notice the same disproportion in the sexes as in the interior,


  ― 119 ―
but not only amongst these tribes but with those of Williorara and Cawndilla, we observed that many had lost an eye by inflammation from the attacks of flies. I was really surprised that any of them could see, for most assuredly it is impossible to conceive anything more tormenting than those brutes are in every part of the interior.

On the 27th we passed two of our old encampments, and halted after a journey of 16 miles in the close vicinity of a tribe of natives, about fifty in number, the majority of whom were boys as mischievous as monkeys, and as great thieves too, but we reduced them to some kind of order by a little patience. The Darling had less water than in the previous year before the flood, but its flats were covered with grass, of which hundreds of tons might have been cut, so that our cattle speedily began to improve in condition.

About this time the weather was exceedingly oppressive, and heavy thunder-clouds hung about, but no rain fell.

Our journey on the 28th was comparatively short. We passed the location of another tribe during the day, and recovered our letter-bag, which had been left by our messengers with a native belonging to it. Here the old Boocolo left us and returned to Williorara.

The last days of 1845 and the few first of 1846 were exceedingly oppressive, and the heat was almost as great as in the interior itself.




  ― 120 ―

On the 5th of January we crossed over from the Darling to its ancient channel, and on the 6th Mr. Browne left for Adelaide. On the 8th I reached Lake Victoria, where I learnt that our old friend Nadbuck had been speared by a native, whose jealousy he had excited, but that his wound was not mortal. He was somewhere on the Rufus, which I did not approach, but made a signal fire in the hope that he would have seen it, and, had they not been spoiled, I should have thrown up a rocket at night. However Nadbuck heard of our return, and made a successful effort to get to us, and tears chased each other down the old man's cheeks when he saw us again. Assuredly these poor people of the desert have the most kindly feelings; for not only was his reception of us such as I have described, but the natives one and all exhibited the utmost joy at our safety, and cheered us on every part of the river.

It blew very heavily on the night of the 10th, but moderated towards the morning, and the day turned out cooler than usual. The lagoons of the Murray were full of fish and wild fowl, and my distribution of all the hooks and lines I had brought back enabled my sable friends to capture an abundance of the former without going into the water, and they very soon appreciated the value of such instruments.

On the 13th I left Mr. Piesse in charge of the party, and pushed on to Moorundi, and arrived at


  ― 121 ―
the settlement, into which I was escorted by the natives raising loud shouts, on the 15th. Here my kind friends made me as comfortable as they could. Mr. Eyre had gone to England on leave of absence, and Mr. Nation was filling his appointment as Resident.

On the 17th I mounted my horse for the first time since I had been taken ill in November, and had scarcely left Moorundi when I met my good friends Mr. Charles Campbell and Mr. A. Hardy in a carriage to convey me to Adelaide. I reached my home at midnight on the 19th of January, and, on crossing its threshold, raised my wife from the floor on which she had fallen, and heard the carriage of my considerate friends roll rapidly away.




  ― 122 ―

4. Chapter IV.

Remarks on the season—Dry state of the atmosphere —Thermometrical observations—Winds in the interior—Direction of the ranges—Geological observations—Non-existence of any central chain— Probable course of the Stony Desert—Whether connected with Lake Torrens—Opinions of Captain Flinders—No information derived from the natives —The natives—Their personal appearance—Disproportion between the sexes—The women—Customs of the natives—Their habitations—Food—Language —Conclusion.

HAVING thus brought my narrative to a conclusion I shall trespass but little more on the patience of the reader. It appears to me that a few observations are necessary to clear some parts, and to make up for omissions in the body of my work. I have written it indeed under considerable disadvantage; for although I have in a great measure recovered from the loss of sight consequent on my former services, I cannot glance my eye so rapidly as I once did over such a voluminous document as this journal; and I feel that I owe it to the public, as well as to myself, to make this apology for its imperfections.




  ― 123 ―

There were two great difficulties against which, during the progress of the expedition, I had to contend. The one was, the want of water; the other, the nature of the country. That it was altogether impracticable for wheeled carriages of any kind, may readily be conceived from my description; and in the state in which I found it, horses were evidently unequal to the task. I cannot help thinking that camels might have done better; not only for their indurance, but because they carry more than a horse. I should, undoubtedly, have been led to try those animals if I could have procured them; but that was impossible. Certain however it is, that I went into the interior to meet with trials that scarcely camels could have borne up against; for I think there can be no doubt, from the facts I have detailed, that the season, during which this expedition was undertaken, was one of unusual dryness; but although the arid state of the country contributed so much to prevent its movements, I question whether, under opposite circumstances, it would have been possible to have pushed so far as the party succeeded in doing. Certainly, if the ground had been kept in a state of constant saturation, travelling would have been out of the question; for the rain of July abundantly proved how impracticable any attempt to penetrate it under such circumstances would have been.

It is difficult to say what kind of seasons prevail in Central Australia. That low region does not, as


  ― 124 ―
far as I can judge, appear to be influenced by tropical rains, but rather to be subject to sudden falls. That the continent of Australia was at one time more humid than it now is, appears to be an admitted fact; the marks of floods, and the violence of torrents (none of which have been witnessed), are mentioned by every explorer as traceable over every part of the continent; but no instance of any general inundation is on record: on the contrary the seasons appear to be getting drier and drier every year, and the slowness with which any body exposed to the air decomposes, would argue the extreme absence of moisture in the atmosphere. It will be remembered that one of my bullocks died in the Pine Forest when I was passing through it in December, 1844. In July, 1845, when Mr. Piesse was on his route home from the Depôt in charge of the home returning party, he passed by the spot where this animal had fallen; and, in elucidation of what I have stated, I will here give the extract of a letter I subsequently received from him from India. Speaking of the humidity of the climate of Bengal, he says: “It appears to me that heat alone is rather a preservative from decomposition; of which I recollect an instance, in the bullock that died in the march through the Pine scrub on the 1st of January, 1845. When I passed by the spot in the following July, the carcase was dried up like a mummy, and was in such a perfect state of preservation as to be easily recognised.”




  ― 125 ―

No stronger proof, I apprehend, could have been adduced of the dryness of the atmosphere in that part of the interior, or more corroborative of the intensity of heat there during the interval referred to; but the singular and unusual effects it had on ourselves, and on every thing around was equally corroborative of the fact. The atmosphere on some occasions was so rarified, that we felt a difficulty in breathing, and a buzzing sensation on the crown of the head, as if a hot iron had been there.

There were only two occasions on which the thermometer was noticed to exceed the range of 130° in the shade, the solar intensity at the same time being nearly 160°. The extremes between this last and our winter's cold, when the thermometer descended to 24° was 133°. I observe that Sir Thomas Mitchell gives the temperature at the Bogan, in his tent at 117° and when exposed to the wind at 129°; but I presume that local causes, such as radiation from stones and sand, operated more powerfully with us than in his case. Whilst we were at the Depôt about May, the water of the creek became slightly putrid, and cleared itself like Thames water; and during the hotter months of our stay there, it evaporated at the rate of nearly an inch a day, as shewn by a rod Mr. Browne placed in it to note the changes, but the amount varied according to the quiescent or boisterous state of the atmosphere. It will readily be believed that in so heated a region the air was seldom still; to the currents sweeping over it we had


  ― 126 ―
to attribute the loathsome and muddy state of the water on which we generally subsisted after we left that place, for the pools from which we took it were so shallow as to be stirred up to the consistency of white-wash by the play and action of the wind on their surfaces. During our stay at the Depôt the barometer never rose above 30·260, or fell below 29·540.

From December, 1844, to the end of April of the following year, the prevailing winds were from E.N.E. to E.S.E., after that month they were variable, but westerly winds predominated. The south wind was always cold, and its approach was invariably indicated by the rise of the barometer.

The rain of July commenced in the north-east quarter and gradually went round to the north-west; but more clouds rose from the former point than from any other. The sky generally speaking was without a speck, and the dazzling brightness of the moon was one of the most distressing things we had to endure when out in the bush. It was impossible indeed to shut out its light which ever way one turned, and its irritating effects were remarkable.

It will be observable to those who cast their eyes over the chart of South Australia that the range of mountains between St. Vincent's Gulf and the Murray river runs up northwards into the interior. In like manner the ranges crossed by the Expedition also ran in the same direction. The Black Rock Hill, so named by Captain Frome, is in lat. 32° 45' and in


  ― 127 ―
the 139th meridian, and is the easternmost of the chain to which it belongs. Mount Gipps on the Coonbaralba range is in lat. 31° 52' and in long. 141° 41', but from that point the ranges trend somewhat to the westward of south, and consequently, may run nearer to that (of which the Black Rock Hill forms so prominent a feature) than we may suppose, but there is a distance of nearly 150 miles of country still remaining to be explored, before this point can be decided. Nevertheless, it is more than probable the two chains are in some measure connected, especially as they greatly resemble each other in their classification. They are for the most part composed of primary igneous rocks, amongst which there is a general distribution of iron, and perhaps of other metals. The iron ore, however, that was discovered during the progress of the Expedition, of which Piesse's Knob is a remarkable specimen, was of the purest kind.




  ― 128 ―

It was, as has been found in South Australia, a surface deposit, protruding or cropping out of the ground in immense clean blocks. This ore was highly magnetic; the veins of the metal run north and south, the direction of the ranges, as did a similar crop on the plains at the S.E. base of the ranges. Generally speaking there was nothing bold or picturesque in the scenery of the Barrier Range, but the Rocky Glen and some few others of a similar description were exceptions. As the Barrier Range ran parallel to the coast ranges, so there were other ranges to the eastward of the Barrier Range, running parallel to it, and they were separated by broad plains, partly open and partly covered with brush. The general elevation of the ranges was about 1200 feet above the level of the sea, but some of the hills exceeded 1600. Mount Lyell was 2000; Mount Gipps 1500; Lewis's Hill 1000: but the general elevation of the range might be rather under than over what I have stated. It appears to me that the whole of the geological formation of this portion of the continent is the same, and that all the lines of ranges terminate in the same kind of way to the north, that is to say, in detached flat-topped hills of compact or indurated quartz shewing white and abrupt faces. So terminated the Coonbaralba Range, and so Mr. Eyre tells us did the Mount Serle Range, and so terminated the range we saw to the westward of Lake Torrens.

That they exhibit evidences of a past violent commotion of waters, I think any one who will follow my steps and view them, will be ready to admit.




  ― 129 ―

That the range of hills I have called “Stanley's Barrier Range,” and that all the mountain chains to the eastward and westward of it, were once so many islands I have not the slightest doubt, and that during the primeval period, a sea covered the deserts over which I wandered; but it is impossible for a writer, whatever powers of description he may have, to transfer to the minds of his readers the same vivid impressions his own may have received, on a view of any external object.

From the remarks into which I have thus been led, as well as those which have escaped me in the course of this narrative, it will be seen that the impressions I had received as to the past and present state of the continent were rather strengthened than diminished, on my further knowledge of its internal structure.

It is true, that I did not find an inland sea as I certainly expected to have done, but the country as a desert was what I had anticipated, although I could not have supposed it would have proved of such boundless extent.

Viewing the objects for which the Expedition was equipped, and its results, there can, I think, be no doubt, as to the non-existence of any mountain ranges in the interior of Australia, but, on the contrary, that its central regions are nearly if not quite on a sea level, and that the north coast is separated from the south as effectually as if seas rolled between them. I have stated my opinion that that portion


  ― 130 ―
of the desert which I tried to cross continues with undiminished breadth to the Great Australian Bight, and I agree with Captain Flinders, in supposing that if an inland sea exists any where, it exists underneath and behind that bank, (speaking from seaward). It would, I think, be unreasonable to suppose that such an immense tract of sandy desert, once undoubtedly a sea-bed, should immediately contract; considering, indeed, the sterile character of the country to the north of Gawler's Range, to the westward of Port Lincoln, and along the whole of the south coast of Australia, nearly to King George's Sound, I must confess I have no hope of any inland fertile country. I am aware it is the opinion of some of my friends that the Stony Desert may communicate with Lake Torrens. Such may have been and still may be the case—I will not argue the contrary, or answer for the changes in so extraordinary a region. I only state my own ideas from what I observed, strengthened by my view of the position I occupied, when at my farthest north; we will therefore refer to that position, and to the position of Lake Torrens, and see how far it is probable, that a large channel, such as I have described the Stony Dessert to be, should turn so abruptly, as it must do to connect itself with that basin; the evident fall of the interior, as far as that fact could be ascertained, being plainly from east to west.

The western shore of Lake Torrens, as laid down by Mr. Eyre, is in 137° 40' or thereabouts. Its


  ― 131 ―
eastern shore in 141° of longitude. Its southern extremity being in lat. 28½°. My position was in 138° of long. and 24° 40' of latitude. I was therefore within 20 miles as far to the westward of the westernmost part of Lake Torrens, and was also 250 geographical miles due north of it. To gain Lake Torrens, the Stony Desert must turn at a right angle from its known course, and in such case hills must exist to the westward of where I was, for hills alone could so change the direction of a current, but the whole aspect of the interior would argue against such a conclusion. I never lost sight of the probability of Lake Torrens being connected with some central feature, until my hopes were destroyed by the nature of the country I traversed, nor do I think it probable that in so level a region as that in which I left it, there is any likelihood of the Stony Desert changing its direction so much as to form any connection with the sandy basin to which I have alluded. Nevertheless it may do so. We naturally cling to the ideas we ourselves have adopted, and it is difficult to transfer them to the mind of another. In reference however to what I had previously stated, I would give the following quotation from Flinders. His impressions from what he observed while sailing along the coast, in a great measure correspond with mine when travelling inland, the only point we differ upon is as to the probable origin of the great sea-wall, which appeared to him to be of calcareous formation, and he therefore concluded that it had


  ― 132 ―
been a coral reef raised by some convulsion of nature. Had Capt. Flinders been able to examine the rock formation of the Great Australian Bight, he would have found that it was for the most part an oolitic limestone, with many shells imbedded in it, similar in substance and in formation to the fossil bed of the Murray, but differing from it in colour.

“The length of these cliffs from their second commencement is 33 leagues, and that of the level bank from New Cape Paisley, where it was first seen from the sea, no less than 145 leagues. The height of this extraordinary bank is nearly the same throughout, being nowhere less by estimation than 400 feet, not anywhere more than 600. In the first 20 leagues the rugged tops of some inland mountains were visible over it, but during the remainder of its long course, the bank was the limit of our view.

“This equality of elevation for so great an extent, and the evidently calcareous nature of the bank, at least in the upper 200 feet, would bespeak it to have been the exterior line of some vast coral reef, which is always more elevated than the interior parts, and commonly level with high water mark. From the gradual subsiding of the sea, or perhaps from some convulsion of nature, this bank may have attained its present height above the surface, and however extraordinary such a change may appear, yet when it is recollected that branches of coral still exist, upon Bald Head, at the elevation of 400 feet or more, this supposition assumes a degree of probability, and it


  ― 133 ―
would farther seem that the subsiding of the waters has not been at a period very remote, since these frail branches have yet neither been all beaten down nor mouldered away by the wind and weather.

“If this supposition be well founded, it may with the fact of no other hill or object having been perceived above the bank in the greater part of its course, assist in forming some conjecture as to what may be within it, which cannot as I judge in such case, be other than flat sandy plains or water. The bank may even be a narrow barrier between an interior and the exterior sea, and much do I regret the not having formed an idea of this probability at the time, for notwithstanding the great difficulty and risk, I should certainly have attempted a landing upon some part of the coast, to ascertain a fact of so much importance.”

Had there been any inland ranges they would have been seen by that searching officer from the ocean, but it is clear that none exists; for Mr. Eyre in his intercourse with the natives, during his journey from South Australia to King George's Sound, elicited nothing from them that led him to suppose that there were any hills in the interior, or indeed that an inland sea was to be found there; even the existence of one may reasonably be doubted, and it may be that the country behind the Great Australian Bight is, as Captain Flinders has conjectured, a low sandy country, formed by a channel of 400 or 500 miles in breadth, separating


  ― 134 ―
the south coast of the continent from the west and north ones. Although I did not gain the direct centre of the continent there can be very little doubt as to the character of the country round it. The spirit of enterprise alone will now ever lead any man to gain it, but the gradual development of the character of the yet unexplored interior will alone put an end to doubts and theories on the subject. The desert of Australia is not more extensive than the deserts in other parts of the world. Its character constitutes its peculiarity, and that may lead to some satisfactory conclusion as to how it was formed, and by what agent the sandy ridges which traverse it were thrown up. I would repeat that I am diffident of my own judgment, and that I should be indebted to any one better acquainted with the nature of these things than I am to point out wherein I am in error.

It remains for me, before I close this part of my work, to make a few observations on the natives with whom we communicated beyond the river tribes. Mr. Eyre has given so full and so accurate an account of the natives of the Murray and Darling that it is needless for me to repeat his observations. I would only remark that I attribute our friendly intercourse with them to the great influence he had gained over them by his judicious conduct as Resident Protector at the Murray. I fully concur with him in the good that resulted from the establishment of a post on that river, for the express pur


  ― 135 ―
pose of putting a stop to the mutual aggression of the overlanders and natives upon each other. I have received too many kindnesses at the hands of the natives not to be interested in their social welfare, and most fully approved the wise policy of Captain Grey, in sending Mr. Eyre to a place where his exertions were so eminently successful.

In another place I may be led to make some remarks on the condition of the natives of South Australia, but at present I have only to observe upon that of the natives of the distant interior with whom no white man had ever before come in contact.

If I except the tribe upon Cooper's Creek, on which they are numerous, the natives are but thinly scattered over the interior, as far as our range extended. The few families wandering over those gloomy regions may scarcely exceed one hundred souls. They are a feeble and diminutive race when compared to the river tribes, but they have evidently sprung from the same parent stock, and local circumstances may satisfactorily and clearly account for physical differences of appearance. Like the tribes of the Darling and the Murray, and indeed like the aborigines of the whole continent, they have the quick and deep set eye, the rapidly retiring forehead, and the great enlargement of the frontal sinus, the flat nose and the thick lip. It is quite true that many have not the depression of the head so great, but in such cases I think an


  ― 136 ―
unusual proportion of the brain lies behind the ear. In addition, however, to the above physiognomical resemblances, they have the same disproportion between the upper region of the body and the lower extremities, the same prominent chest, and the same want of muscular development, and in common with all the natives I have seen, their beards are strong and stand out from the chin, and their hair the finest ornament they possess, only that they destroy its natural beauty by filth and neglect, is both straight and curly. Their skins are nearly of the same hue; nor did we see any great difference, excepting in one woman, whose skin was of a jet black. Two young women, however, were noticed who had beautiful glossy ringlets, of which they appeared to be exceedingly proud, and kept clean, as if they knew their value. Both Mr. Browne and myself observed a great disparity of numbers in the male and female children, there being an excess of the latter of nearly two to one, and in some instances of a still greater disproportion.

This fact was also obvious both to Mr. Stuart and myself in the tribe on Cooper's Creek, in which the number of female children greatly exceeded that of the male, though there were more adult men than women. The personal appearance of the men of this tribe, as I have already stated, was exceedingly prepossessing—they were well made and tall, and notwithstanding that my long-legged friend was an ugly fellow, were generally good looking. Their


  ― 137 ―
children in like manner were in good condition and appeared to be larger than I had remarked elsewhere, but with the women no improvement was to be seen. Thin, half-starved and emaciated they were still made to bear the burden of the work, and while the men were lounging about their fires, and were laughing and talking, the women were ceaselessly hammering and pounding to prepare that meat, of which, from their appearance, so small a proportion fell to their share. As regards the treatment of their women, however, I think I have observed that they are subjected to harsher treatment when they are members of a large tribe than when fewer are congregated together. Both parents are very fond of and indulgent to their children, and there is no surer way of gaining the assistance of the father, or of making a favourable impression on a tribe than by noticing the children.

I think that generally speaking the native women seldom have more than four children, or if they have, few above that number arrive at the age of puberty. There are, however, several reasons why the women are not more prolific; the principal of which is that they suckle their young for such a length of time, and so severe a task is it with them to rear their offspring that the child is frequently destroyed at its birth; and however revolting to us such a custom may be, it is now too notorious a fact to be disputed.

The voices of the natives, generally speaking, are soft, especially those of the women. They are also


  ― 138 ―
a merry people and sit up laughing and talking all night long. It is this habit, and the stars so constantly passing before their eyes, which enables them to know when they are likely to have rain or cold weather, as they will point to any star and tell you that when it shall get up higher then the weather will be cold or hot.

These primitive people have peculiar customs and ceremonies in their intercourse with strangers, and on first meeting preserve a most painful silence; whether this arises from diffidence or some other feeling it is difficult to say, but it is exceedingly awkward; but, however awkward or embarrassing it may be, there can be no doubt as to the policy and necessity of respecting it. The natives certainly do not allow strangers to pass through their territory without permission first obtained, and their passions and fears are both excited when suddenly intruded upon. To my early observation of this fact, and to my forbearing any forced interview, but giving them time to recover from the surprise into which my presence had thrown them, I attribute my success in avoiding any hostile collision. I am sure, indeed, whatever instances of violence and murder may be recorded of them, they are naturally a mild and inoffensive people.

It is a remarkable fact that we seldom or ever saw weapons in the hands of any of the natives of the interior, such as we did see were similar to those ordinarily used by natives of other parts of the continent.


  ― 139 ―
Their implements were simple and rude, and consisted chiefly of troughs for holding water or seeds, rush bags, skins, stones, etc. The native habitations, at all events those of the natives of the interior, with the exception of the Cooper's Creek tribe, had huts of a much more solid construction than those of the natives of the Murray or the Darling, although some of their huts were substantially built also. Those of the interior natives however were made of strong boughs with a thick coating of clay over leaves and grass. They were entirely impervious to wind and rain, and were really comfortable, being evidently erections of a permanent kind to which the inhabitants frequently returned. Where there were villages these huts were built in rows, the front of one hut being at the back of the other, and it appeared to be a singular but universal custom to erect a smaller hut at no great distance from the large ones, but we were unable to detect for what purpose they were made, unless it was to deposit their seeds; as they were too small even for children to inhabit. At the little hut to the north of the ranges, from which the reader will recollect we twice frightened away a poor native, we found a very large spear, apparently for a canoe, which I brought to the camp. This spear could not possibly have been used as a weapon, for it was too heavy, but on shewing it subsequently to some natives, they did not intimate that it was a canoe spear.

It may be thought that having been in the interior for so many months I ought to have become


  ― 140 ―
acquainted with many of the customs and habits of the people inhabiting it, but it will have been seen that they seldom came near us.

The custom of circumcision generally prevailed, excepting with the Cooper's Creek tribe, but you would meet with a tribe with which that custom did not prevail, between two with which it did.

As regards their food, it varies with the season. That which they appeared to me to use in the greatest abundance were seeds of various kinds, as of grasses of several sorts, of the mesembryanthemum, of the acacia and of the box-tree; of roots and herbs, of caterpillars and moths, of lizards and snakes, but of these there are very few. Besides these they sometimes take the emu and kangaroo, but they are never so plentiful as to constitute a principal article of food. They take ducks when the rains favour their frequenting the creeks and lagoons, exactly as the natives of other parts of Australia do, with nets stuck up to long poles, and must procure a sufficiency of birds during the summer season. They also wander among the sand ridges immediately after a fall of rain, to hunt the jerboa and talperoo, (see Nat. Hist.,) of which they procure vast supplies; but all these sports are temporary, particularly the latter, as the moment the puddles dry up the natives are forced to retreat and fall back on previous means of subsistence.

With regard to their language, it differed in different localities, though all had words common to each


  ― 141 ―
respectively. My friend Mr. Eyre states, that they have not any generic name for anything, as tree, fish, bird; but in this, as far as the fish goes, I think he is mistaken, for the old man who visited our camp before the rains, and who so much raised our hopes, certainly gave them a generic name; for placing his fingers on such fish as he recognised, he distinctly mentioned their specific name, but when he put his fingers on such as he did not recognise, he said “Guia, Guia, Guia,” successively after each, evidently intending to include them under the one name. With respect to their religious impressions, if I may so call them, I believe they have none. The only impression they have is of an evil spirit, but however melancholy the fact, it is no less true that the aborigines of Australia have no idea of a superintending Providence.

In conclusion: I have spoken of Mr. Browne and Mr. Piesse throughout my narrative, in terms such as I feel they deserved. I should be sorry to close its pages without also recording the valuable and cheerful assistance I received from Mr. Stuart, whose zeal and spirit were equally conspicuous, and whose labour at the charts did him great credit. To Flood I was indebted for having my horses in a state fit for service, than whom as a person in charge of stock, I could not have had a better; and I cannot but speak well of all the men in their respective capacities, as having always displayed a willingness to bear with me, when ever I called on them to do so, the fatigues and exposure incidental to such a service as that on which I was employed.




  ― 142 ―

Before closing my narrative I would make a few observations on the conduct of such an Expedition as the one the details of which I have just been giving.

It appears to me then that discipline is the first and principal point to be considered on such occasions; unless indeed the leader be implicitly obeyed it is impossible that matters should go on regularly. For this reason it is objectionable to associate any irresponsible person in such an undertaking. When I engaged the men who were to accompany me, I made them sign an agreement, giving me power to diminish or increase the rations, and binding themselves not only to the performance of any particular duty, but to do everything in their power to promote the success of the service in which they were engaged, under the penalty of forfeiture of wages, in whole or part as I should determine. I deemed it absolutely necessary to arm myself with powers with which I could restrain my men even in the Desert, before I left the haunts of civilized man, although I never put these powers in force,—and this appears to me to be a necessary precaution on all such occasions. Equally necessary is the establishment of a guard at night, for it is impossible to calculate on the presence of natives—they may be close at hand, when none have been seen or heard during the day. Had Dr. Leichhardt adopted this precaution his camp would not have been surprised, nor would he have lost a valuable companion. Equally necessary is it to keep the stock, whether horses or bullocks, constantly within view. In all


  ― 143 ―
situations where I thought it probable they might wander I had them watched all night long. Unless due precaution however is used to ensure their being at hand when wanted, they are sure to wander and give ceaseless trouble.

As regards the consumption of provisions, I had both a weekly and a monthly statement of issues. In addition to this they were weighed monthly and their loss ascertained, and their consumption regulated accordingly, and I must say that I never found that the men were disposed to object to any reasonable reduction I made. I found the sheep I took with me were admirable stock, but I was always aware that an unforeseen accident might deprive me of them, and indeed they called for more watchful care even than the other stock. The men at the Depôt were never without their full allowance of mutton. It was only the parties out on distant and separate services who were reduced to an allowance scarcely sufficient to do their work upon.

The attention of a Leader is no less called to all these minutiæ than his eye and judgment to the nature of the country in which he may happen to be. I would observe that in searching for water along the dry channel of a creek, he should watch for the slightest appearance of a creek junction, for water is more frequently found in these lateral branches, however small they may at first appear to be, than in the main creek itself, and I would certainly recommend a close examination of them. The explorer will ever find the gum-tree in the neighbour


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hood of water, and if he should ever traverse such a country as that into which I went, and should discover creeks as I did losing themselves on plains, he should never despair of recovering their channels again. They invariably terminate in grassy plains, and until he sees such before him he may rest assured that their course continues. Should the traveller be in a country in which water is scarce it will be better for him to stop at any he may find, although early in the day, than to go on in the chance of being without all night, and so entailing fatigue on his men.

I trust that what I have said of the natives renders it unnecessary for me to add anything as to the caution and forbearance required in communicating with them. Kindness gains much on them, and their friendly disposition eases the mind of a load of anxiety—for however confident the Leader may be, it is impossible to divest the minds of the men of apprehension when in the presence of hostile natives. He who shall have perused these pages will have learnt that under whatever difficulties he may be placed, that although his last hope is almost extinguished, he should never despair. I have recorded instances enough of the watchful superintendence of that Providence over me and my party, without whose guidance we should have perished, nor can I more appropriately close these humble sheets, than by such an acknowledgment, and expressing my fervent thanks to Almighty God for the mercies vouchsafed to me during the trying and doubtful service on which I was employed.

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