Australia Twice Traversed, by Ernest Giles

Chapter 3.2. From 2nd April to 6th May, 1875.

Leave Wynbring. The horses. Mountains of sand. Mount Finke. One horse succumbs. Torchlight tracking. Trouble with the camels. A low mount. Dry salt lagoons. 200 miles yet from water. Hope. Death of Chester. The last horse. A steede, a steede. Ships of the desert. Reflections at night. Death or Water. The Hermit Hill. Black shepherds and shepherdesses. The Finniss Springs. Victims to the bush. Footprints on the sands of time. Alec Ross. Reach Beltana.

On the 2nd April we departed from this friendly depot at Wynbring Rock, taking our three horses, the two camels and the calf. The morning was as hot as fire; at midday we watered all our animals, and having saddled and packed them, we left the place behind us. On the two camels we carried as much water as we had vessels to hold it, the quantity being nearly fifty gallons. The horses were now on more friendly terms with them, so that they could be led by a person on horseback. Old Jimmy, now no longer a guide, was not permitted to take the lead, but rode behind, to see that nothing fell off the camels' saddles. I rode in advance, on my best horse Chester, a fine, well-set chestnut cob, a horse I was very fond of, as he had proved himself so good. Nicholls rode a strong young grey horse called Formby; he also had proved himself to my satisfaction to be a good one. Jimmy was mounted on an old black horse, that was a fine ambler, the one that bolted away with the load of water the first night we started from Youldeh. He had not stood the journey from Youldeh at all well; the other two were quite fresh and hearty when we left Wynbring.

By the evening of the 2nd we had made only twenty-two miles. We found the country terrific; the ground rose into sandhills so steep and high, that all our animals were in a perfect lather of sweat. The camels could hardly be got along at all. At night, where we were compelled by darkness to encamp, there was nothing for the horses to eat, so the poor brutes had to be tied up, lest they should ramble back to Wynbring. There was plenty of food for the camels, as they could eat the leaves of some of the bushes, but they were too sulky to eat because they were tied up. The bull continually bit his nose-rope through, and made several attempts to get away, the calf always going with him, leaving his mother: this made her frantic to get away too. The horses got frightened, and were snorting and jumping about, trying to break loose all night. The spot we were in was a hollow, between two high sandhills, and not a breath of air relieved us from the oppression of the atmosphere. Peter Nicholls and I were in a state of thirst and perspiration the whole night, running about after the camels and keeping the horses from breaking away. If the cow had got loose, we could not have prevented the camels clearing off. I was never more gratified than at the appearance of the next morning's dawn, as it enabled us to move away from this dreadful place. It was impossible to travel through this region at night, even by moonlight; we should have lost our eyes upon the sticks and branches of the direful scrubs if we had attempted it, besides tearing our skin and clothes to pieces also. Starting at earliest dawn, and traversing formidably steep and rolling waves of sand, we at length reached the foot of the mountain we had been striving for, in twenty-three miles, forty-five from Wynbring. I could not help thinking it was the most desolate heap on the face of the earth, having no water or places that could hold it. The elevation of this eminence was over 1000 feet above the surrounding country, and over 2000 feet above the sea. The country visible from its summit was still enveloped in dense scrubs in every direction, except on a bearing a few degrees north of east, where some low ridges appeared. I rode my horse Chester many miles over the wretched stony slopes at the foot of this mountain, and tied him up to trees while I walked to its summit, and into gullies and crevices innumerable, but no water rewarded my efforts, and it was very evident that what the old black fellow Wynbring Tommy, had said, about its being waterless was only too true. After wasting several hours in a fruitless search for water, we left the wretched mount, and steered away for the ridges I had seen from its summit. They appeared to be about forty-five miles away. As it was so late in the day when we left the mountain, we got only seven miles from it when darkness again overtook us, and we had to encamp.

On the following day, the old horse Jimmy was riding completely gave in from the heat and thirst and fearful nature of the country we were traversing, having come only sixty-five miles from Wynbring. We could neither lead, ride, nor drive him any farther. We had given each horse some water from the supply the camels carried, when we reached the mountain, and likewise some on the previous night, as the heavy sandhills had so exhausted them, this horse having received more than the others. Now he lay down and stretched out his limbs in the agony of thirst and exhaustion. I was loth to shoot the poor old creature, and I also did not like the idea of leaving him to die slowly of thirst; but I thought perhaps if I left him, he might recover sufficiently to travel at night at his own pace, and thus return to Wynbring, although I also knew from former sad experience in Gibson's Desert, that, like Badger and Darkie, it was more than probable he could never escape. His saddle was hung in the fork of a sandal-wood-tree, not the sandal-wood of commerce, and leaving him stretched upon the burning sand, we moved away. Of course he was never seen or heard of after.

That night we encamped only a few miles from the ridges, at a place where there was a little dry grass, and where both camels and horses were let go in hobbles. Long before daylight on the following morning, old Jimmy and I were tracking the camels by torchlight, the horse-bells indicating that those animals were not far off; the camel-bells had gone out of hearing early in the night. Old Jimmy was a splendid tracker; indeed, no human being in the world but an Australian aboriginal, and that a half or wholly wild one, could track a camel on some surfaces, for where there is any clayey soil, the creature leaves no more mark on the ground than an ant — black children often amuse themselves by tracking ants — and to follow such marks as they do leave, by firelight, was marvellous. Occasionally they would leave some marks that no one could mistake, where they passed over sandy ground; but for many hundreds beyond, it would appear as though they must have flown over the ground and had never put their feet to the earth at all. By the time daylight appeared, old Jimmy had tracked them about three miles; then he went off, apparently quite regardless of any tracks at all, walking at such a pace, that I could only keep up with him by occasionally running. We came upon the camels at length at about six miles from the camp, amongst some dry clay-pans, and they were evidently looking for water. The old cow, which was the only riding camel, was so poor and bony, it was too excruciating to ride her without a saddle or a pad of some sort, which now we had not got, so we took it in turns to ride the bull, and he made many attempts to shake us off; but as he had so much hair on his hump, we could cling on by that as we sat behind it. It was necessary for whoever was walking to lead him by his nose-rope, or he would have bolted away and rubbed his encumbrance off against a tree, or else rolled on it. In consequence of the camels having strayed so far, it was late in the day when we again started, the two horses looking fearfully hollow and bad. The morning as usual was very hot. There not being now a horse a piece to ride, and the water which one camel had carried having been drank by the animals, Peter Nicholls rode the old cow again, both she and the bull being much more easy to manage and get along than when we started from Youldeh. Our great difficulty was with the nose-ropes; the calf persisted in getting in front of its mother and twisting her nose-rope round his neck, also in placing itself right in between the fore-legs of the bull. This would make him stop, pull back and break his rope, or else the button would tear through the nose; this caused detention a dozen times a day, and I was so annoyed with the young animal, I could scarcely keep from shooting it many times. The young creature was most endearing now, when caught, and evidently suffered greatly from thirst.

We reached the ridges in seven miles from where we had camped, and had now come ninety miles from Wynbring. We could find no water at these ridges, as there were no places that could hold it. Here we may be said to have entered on a piece of open country, and as it was apparently a change for the better from the scrubs, I was very glad to see it, especially as we hoped to obtain water on it. Our horses were now in a terrible state of thirst, for the heat was great, and the region we had traversed was dreadfully severe, and though they had each been given some of the water we brought with us, yet we could not afford anything like enough to satisfy them. From the top of the ridge a low mount or hill bore 20° north of east; Mount Finke, behind us, bore 20° south of west. I pushed on now for the hill in advance, as it was nearly on the route I desired to travel. The country being open, we made good progress, and though we could not reach it that night, we were upon its summit early the next morning, it being about thirty miles from the ridges we had left, a number of dry, salt, white lagoons intervening. This hill was as dry and waterless as the mount and ridges, we had left behind us in the scrubs. Dry salt lagoons lay scattered about in nearly all directions, glittering with their saline encrustations, as the sun's rays flashed upon them. To the southward two somewhat inviting isolated hills were seen; in all other directions the horizon appeared gloomy in the extreme. We had now come 120 miles from water, and the supply we had started with was almost exhausted; the country we were in could give us none, and we had but one, of two courses to pursue, either to advance still further into this terrible region, or endeavour to retreat to Wynbring. No doubt the camels could get back alive, but ourselves and the horses could never have recrossed the frightful bed of rolling sand-mounds, that intervened between us and the water we had left. My poor old black companion was aghast at such a region, and also at what he considered my utter folly in penetrating into it at all. Peter Nicholls, I was glad to find, was in good spirits, and gradually changing his opinions with regard to the powers and value of the camels. They had received no water themselves, though they had laboured over the hideous sandhills, laden with the priceless fluid for the benefit of the horses, and it was quite evident the latter could not much longer live, in such a desert, whilst the former were now far more docile and obedient to us than when we started. Whenever the horses were given any water, we had to tie the camels up at some distance. The expression in these animals' eyes when they saw the horses drinking was extraordinary; they seemed as though they were going to speak, and had they done so, I know well they would have said, “You give those useless little pigmies the water that cannot save them, and you deny it to us, who have carried it, and will yet be your only saviours in the end.” After we had fruitlessly searched here for water, having wasted several hours, we left this wretched hill, and I continued steering upon the same course we had come, namely, north 75° east, as that bearing would bring me to the north-western extremity of Lake Torrens, still distant over 120 miles. It was very probable we should get no water, as none is known to exist where we should touch upon its shores. Thus we were, after coming 120 miles from Wynbring, still nearly 200 miles from the Finniss Springs, the nearest water that I knew. It was now a matter of life and death; could we reach the Finniss at all? We could neither remain here, nor should we survive if we attempted to retreat; to advance was our only chance of escape from the howling waste in which we were almost entombed; we therefore moved onwards, as fast and as far as we could. On the following morning, before dawn, I had been lying wakefully listening for the different sounds of the bells on the animals' necks, and got up to brighten up the camp fire with fresh wood, when the strange sound of the quacking of a wild duck smote upon my ear. The blaze of firelight had evidently attracted the creature, which probably thought it was the flashing of water, as it flew down close to my face, and almost precipitated itself into the flames; but discovering its error, it wheeled away upon its unimpeded wings, and left me wondering why this denizen of the air and water, should be sojourning around the waterless encampment of such hapless travellers as we. The appearance of such a bird raised my hopes, and forced me to believe that we must be in the neighbourhood of some water, and that the coming daylight would reveal to us the element which alone could save us and our unfortunate animals from death. But, alas! how many human hopes and aspirations are continually doomed to perish unfulfilled; and were it not that “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” all faith, all energy, all life, and all success would be at an end, as then we should know that most of our efforts are futile, whereas now we hope they may attain complete fruition. Yet, on the other hand, we learn that the fruit of dreamy hoping is waking blank despair. We were again in a region of scrubs as bad and as dense as those I hoped and thought, I had left behind me.

Leaving our waterless encampment, we continued our journey, a melancholy, thirsty, silent trio. At 150 miles from Wynbring my poor horse Chester gave in, and could go no farther; for some miles I had walked, and we had the greatest difficulty in forcing him along, but now he was completely exhausted and rolled upon the ground in the death agony of thirst. It was useless to waste time over the unfortunate creature; it was quite impossible for him ever to rise again, so in mercy I fired a revolver-bullet at his forehead, as he gasped spasmodically upon the desert sand: a shiver passed through his frame, and we left him dead in the lonely spot.

We had now no object but to keep pushing on; our supply of water was all but gone, and we were in the last stage of thirst and wretchedness. By the night of that day we had reached a place 168 miles from Wynbring, and in all that distance not a drop of water had been found. We had one unfortunate horse left, the grey called Formby, and that poor creature held out as long and on as little water as I am sure is possible in such a heated and horrid region. On the following morning the poor beast came up to Nicholls and I, old Jimmy being after the camels which were close by, and began to smell us, then stood gazing vacantly at the fire; a thought seemed to strike him that it was water, and he put his mouth down into the flames. This idea seems to actuate all animals when in the last stage of thirst. We were choking with thirst ourselves, but we agreed to sacrifice a small billyful of our remaining stock of water for this unfortunate last victim to our enterprise. We gave him about two quarts, and bitterly we regretted it later, hoping he might still be able to stagger on to where water might be found; but vain was the hope and vain the gift, for the creature that had held up so long and so well, swallowed up the last little draught we gave, fell down and rolled and shivered in agony, as Chester had done, and he died and was at rest. A singular thing about this horse was that his eyes had sunk into his head until they were all but hidden. For my own part, in such a region and in such a predicament as we were placed, I would not unwillingly have followed him into the future.

The celebrated Sir Thomas Mitchell, one of Australia's early explorers, in one of his journeys, after finding a magnificent country watered by large rivers, and now the long-settled abodes of civilisation, mounted on a splendid horse, bursts into an old cavalier song, a verse of which says:

“A steede, a steede of matchless speede,

A sworde of metal keane;

All else to noble mindes is drosse;

All else on earthe is meane.”

I don't know what he would have thought had he been in my case, with his matchless “steede” dead, and in the pangs of thirst himself, his “sworde of metal keane” a useless encumbrance, 168 miles from the last water, and not knowing where the next might be; he would have to admit that the wonderful beasts which now alone remained to us were by no means to be accounted “meane,” for these patient and enduring creatures, which were still alive, had tasted no water since leaving Wynbring, and, though the horses were dead and gone, stood up with undiminished powers — appearing to be as well able now to continue on and traverse this wide-spread desert as when they left the last oasis behind. We had nothing now to depend upon but our two “ships of the desert,” which we were only just beginning to understand. I had been a firm believer in them from the first, and had many an argument with Nicholls about them; his opinion had now entirely altered. At Youldeh he had called them ugly, useless, lazy brutes, that were not to be compared to horses for a moment; but now that the horses were dead they seemed more agreeable and companionable than ever the horses had been.

When Jimmy brought them to the camp they looked knowingly at the prostrate form of the dead horse; they kneeled down close beside it and received their loads, now indeed light enough, and we went off again into the scrubs, riding and walking by turns, our lives entirely depending on the camels; Jimmy had told us they were calmly feeding upon some of the trees and bushes in the neighbourhood when he got them. That they felt the pangs of thirst there can be no doubt — and what animal can suffer thirst like a camel? — as whenever they were brought to the camp they endeavoured to fumble about the empty water-bags, tin pannikins, and any other vessel that ever had contained water.

The days of toil, the nights of agony and feverish unrest, that I spent upon this journey I can never forget. After struggling through the dense scrubs all day we were compelled perforce to remain in them all night. It was seldom now we spoke to one another, we were too thirsty and worn with lassitude to converse, and my reflections the night after the last horse died, when we had come nearly 200 miles without water, of a necessity assumed a gloomy tinge, although I am the least gloomy-minded of the human race, for we know that the tone of the mind is in a great measure sympathetic with the physical condition of the body. If the body is weak from exhaustion and fatigue, the brain and mind become dull and sad, and the thoughts of a wanderer in such a desolate region as this, weary with a march in heat and thirst from daylight until dark, who at last sinks upon the heated ground to watch and wait until the blazing sunlight of another day, perhaps, may bring him to some place of rest, cannot be otherwise than of a mournful kind. The mind is forced back upon itself, and becomes filled with an endless chain of thoughts which wander through the vastness of the star-bespangled spheres; for here, the only things to see, the only things to love, and upon which the eye may gaze, and from which the beating heart may gather some feelings of repose, are the glittering bands of brilliant stars shining in the azure vault of heaven. From my heated couch of sandy earth I gazed helplessly but rapturously upon them, wondering at the enormity of occupied and unoccupied space, revolving thoughts of past, present, and future existencies, and of how all that is earthly fadeth away. But can that be the case with our world itself, with the sun from which it obtains its light and life, or with the starry splendours of the worlds beyond the sun? Will they, can they, ever fade? They are not spiritual; celestial still we call them, but they are material all, in form and nature. We are both; yet we must fade and they remain. How is the understanding to decide which of the two holds the main spring and thread of life? Certainly we know that the body decays, and even the paths of glory lead but to the grave; but we also know that the mind becomes enfeebled with the body, that the aged become almost idiotic in their second childhood; and if the body is to rise again, how is poor humanity to distinguish the germ of immortality? Philosophies and speculations upon the future have been subjects of the deepest thought for the highest minds of every generation of mankind; and although creeds have risen and sunk, and old religions and philosophies have passed away, the dubious minds of mortal men still hang and harp upon the theme of what can be the Great Beyond. The various creeds, of the many different nations of the earth induce them to believe in as many differing notions of heaven, but all and each appear agreed upon the point that up into the stars alone their hoped-for heaven is to be found; and if all do not, in this agree, still there are some aspiring minds high soaring above sublunary things, above the petty disputes of differing creeds, and the vague promises they hold out to their votaries, who behold, in the firmament above, mighty and mysterious objects for veneration and love.

These are the gorgeous constellations set thick with starry gems, the revolving orbs of densely crowded spheres, the systems beyond systems, clusters beyond clusters, and universes beyond universes, all brilliantly glittering with various coloured light, all wheeling and swaying, floating and circling round some distant, unknown, motive, centre-point, in the pauseless measures of a perpetual dance of joy, keeping time and tune with most ecstatic harmony, and producing upon the enthralled mind the not imaginary music of the spheres.

Then comes the burning wish to know how come these mighty mysterious and material things about. We are led to suppose as our own minds and bodies progressively improve from a state of infancy to a certain-point, so it is with all things we see in nature; but the method of the original production of life and matter is beyond the powers of man to discover. Therefore, we look forward with anxiety and suspense, hope, love, and fear to a future time, having passed through the portals of the valley of death, from this existence, we shall enjoy life after life, in new body, after new body, passing through new sphere, after new sphere, arriving nearer and nearer to the fountain-head of all perfection, the divinely great Almighty source of light and life, of hope and love.

These were some of my reflections throughout that weary night; the stars that in their constellations had occupied the zenith, now have passed the horizon's verge; other and fresh glittering bands now occupy their former places — at last the dawn begins to glimmer in the east, and just as I could have fallen into the trance of sleep, it was time for the race for life, again to wander on, so soon as our animals could be found.

This was the eighth day of continued travel from Wynbring; our water was now all gone, and we were yet more than 100 miles from the Finniss Springs. I had been compelled to enforce a most rigid and inadequate economy with our water during our whole march; when we left the camp where the last horse died very little over three pints remained; we were all very bad, old Jimmy was nearly dead. At about four o'clock in the afternoon we came to a place where there was a considerable fall into a hollow, here was some bare clay — in fact it was an enormous clay-pan, or miniature lake-bed; the surface was perfectly dry, but in a small drain or channel, down which water could descend in times of rain, by the blessing of Providence I found a supply of yellow water. Nicholls had previously got strangely excited — in fact the poor fellow was light-headed from thirst, and at one place where there was no water he threw up his hat and yelled out “Water, water!” he walking a little in advance; we had really passed the spot where the water was, but when Nicholls gave the false information I jumped down off my camel and ran up to him, only to be grievously disappointed; but as I went along I caught sight of a whitish light through the mulga trees partially behind me, and without saying a word for fear of fresh disappointment, I walked towards what I had seen; Nicholls and Jimmy, who both seemed dazed, went on with the camels.

What I had seen, was a small sheet of very white water, and I could not resist the temptation to drink before I went after them. By the time I had drank they had gone on several hundred yards; when I called to them and flung up my hat, they were so stupid with thirst, and disappointment, that they never moved towards me, but stood staring until I took the camels' nose-rope in my hand, and, pointing to my knees, which were covered with yellow mud, simply said “water”; then, when I led the camels to the place, down these poor fellows went on their knees, in the mud and water, and drank, and drank, and I again knelt down and drank, and drank. Oh, dear reader, if you have never suffered thirst you can form no conception what agony it is. But talk about drinking, I couldn't have believed that even thirsty camels could have swallowed such enormous quantities of fluid.

It was delightful to watch the poor creatures visibly swelling before our eyes. I am sure the big bull Mustara must have taken down fifty gallons of water, for even after the first drink, when we took their saddles off at the camp, they all three went back to the water and kept drinking for nearly an hour.

We had made an average travelling of twenty-eight miles a day from Wynbring, until this eighth day, when we came to the water in twenty-four miles, thus making it 220 miles in all. I could not sufficiently admire and praise the wonderful powers of these extraordinary, and to me entirely new animals. During the time we had been travelling the weather had been very hot and oppressive, the thermometer usually rising to 104° in the shade when we rested for an hour in the middle of the day, but that was not the hottest time, from 2.40 to 3 p.m. being the culminating period. The country we had traversed was a most frightful desert, yet day after day our noble camels kept moving slowly but surely on, with undiminished powers, having carried water for their unfortunate companions the horses, and seeing them drop one by one exhausted and dying of thirst; still they marched contentedly on, carrying us by turns, and all the remaining gear of the dead horses, and finally brought us to water at last. We had yet over eighty miles to travel to reach the Finniss, and had we not found water I am sure the three human beings of the party could never have got there. The walking in turns over this dreadful region made us suffer all the more, and it was dangerous at any time to allow old Jimmy to put his baking lips to a water-bag, for he could have drank a couple of gallons at any time with the greatest ease. For some miles before we found the water the country had become of much better quality, the sandhills being lower and well grassed, with clay flats between. We also passed a number with pine-trees growing on them. Rains had evidently visited this region, as before I found the water I noticed that many of the deeper clay channels were only recently dry; when I say deeper, I mean from one to two feet, the usual depth of a clay-pan channel being about as many inches. The grass and herbage round the channel where I found the water were beautifully green.

Our course from the last hill had been about north 75° east; the weather, which had been exceedingly oppressive for so many weeks, now culminated in a thunderstorm of dust, or rather sand and wind, while dark nimbus clouds completely eclipsed the sun, and reduced the temperature to an agreeable and bearable state. No rain fell, but from this change the heats of summer departed, though the change did not occur until after we had found the water; now all our good things came together, namely, an escape from death by thirst, a watered and better travelling country, and cooler weather. Here we very naturally took a day to recruit. Old Jimmy was always very anxious to know how the compass was working, as I had always told him the compass would bring us to water, that it knew every country and every water, and as it did bring us to water, he thought what I said about it must be true. I also told him it would find some more water for us to-morrow. We were always great friends, but now I was so advanced in his favour that he promised to give me his daughter Mary for a wife when I took him back to Fowler's Bay. Mary was a very pretty little girl. But “I to wed with Coromantees? Thoughts like these would drive me mad. And yet I hold some (young) barbarians higher than the Christian cad.” After our day's rest we again proceeded on our journey, with all our water vessels replenished, and of course now found several other places on our route where rain-water was lying, and it seemed like being translated to a brighter sphere, to be able to indulge in as much water-drinking as we pleased.


The Hermit Hill and Finniss Springs.

At one place where we encamped there was a cane grass flat, over a mile long, fifty to a hundred yards wide, and having about four feet of water in it, which was covered with water-fowl; amongst these a number of black swans were gracefully disporting themselves. Peter Nicholls made frantic efforts to shoot a swan and some ducks, but he only brought one wretchedly small teal into the camp. We continued on our former course until we touched upon and rounded the north-western extremity of Lake Torrens. I then changed my course for the Hermit Hill, at the foot of which the Finniss Springs and Sir Thomas Elder's cattle station lies. Our course was now nearly north. On the evening of the third day after leaving the water that had saved us, we fell in with two black fellows and their lubras or wives, shepherding two flocks of Mr. Angas's sheep belonging to his Stuart's Creek station. As they were at a water, we encamped with them. Their lubras were young and pretty; the men were very hospitable to us, and gave us some mutton, for which we gave them tobacco and matches; for their kindness I gave the pretty lubras some tea and sugar. Our old Jimmy went up to them and shook hands, and they became great friends. These blacks could not comprehend where we could possibly have come from, Fowler's Bay being an unknown quantity to them. We had still a good day's stage before us to reach the Finniss, but at dusk we arrived, and were very kindly received and entertained by Mr. Coulthard, who was in charge. His father had been an unfortunate explorer, who lost his life by thirst, upon the western shores of the Lake Torrens I have mentioned, his tin pannikin or pint pot was afterwards found with his name and the date of the last day he lived, scratched upon it. Many an unrecorded grave, many a high and noble mind, many a gallant victim to temerity and thirst, to murder by relentless native tribes, or sad mischance, is hidden in the wilds of Australia, and not only in the wilds, but in places also less remote, where the whistle of the shepherd and the bark of his dog, the crack of the stockman's whip, or the gay or grumbling voice of the teamster may now be heard, some unfortunate wanderer may have died. As the poet says:—

“Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid,

Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;

Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed,

Or waked to ecstacy the living lyre.”

If it is with a thought of pity, if it is with a sigh of lament, that we ponder over the fate of the lost, over the deaths in the long catalogue of the victims to the Australian bush, from Cunningham (lost with Mitchell) and Leichhardt, Kennedy and Gilbert, Burke, Wiils, Gray, Poole, Curlewis and Conn, down to Coulthard, Panter, and Gibson, it must be remembered that they died in a noble cause, and they sleep in honourable graves. Nor must it be forgotten that they who return from confronting the dangers by which these others fell, have suffered enough to make them often wish that they, too, could escape through the grave from the horrors surrounding them. I have often been in such predicaments that I have longed for death, but having as yet returned alive, from deserts and their thirst, from hostile native tribes and deadly spears, and feeling still “the wild pulsation which in manhood's dawn I knew, when my days were all before me, and my years were twenty-two,”— as long as there are new regions to explore, the burning charm of seeking something new, will still possess me; and I am also actuated to aspire and endeavour if I cannot make my life sublime, at least to leave behind me some “everlasting footprints on the sands of time.”

At the Finniss Springs I met young Alec Ross, the son of another explorer, who was going to join my party for the new expedition to Perth. My destination was now Beltana, 140 miles from hence. I got a couple of horses for Nicholls and myself from Mr. Coulthard, Jimmy being stuck up on the top of the old riding cow camel, who could travel splendidly on a road. When I arrived at Beltana I had travelled 700 miles from Fowler's Bay.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/giles/ernest/g47a/book3.2.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 19:14