Australia Twice Traversed, by Ernest Giles

Chapter 5.3. From 7th May to 10th June, 1876.

Depart for higher ground. Rainfalls. Ophthalmia. Romantic glen. Glen Ross. Camels on the down grade. Larger creek. The Ashburton. No natives. Excellent bushes for camels. A strange spot. Junction of several creeks. Large snake. Grand Junction Depot. A northerly journey. Milk thistle. Confined glen. Pool of water. Blind with ophthalmia. Leading the blind. Dome-like masses. Mount Robinson and The Governor. Ophthalmia range. Rocky spring. Native fig-trees. A glen full of water. Camels nearly drowned. Scarcity of living things. And of water. Continued plague of flies. A pretty view. Tributaries join. Nicholls's Fish ponds. Characteristics of watering places. Red hill. Another spring. Unvarying scene. Frost, thermometer 28°. A bluff hill. Gibson's Desert again. Remarks upon the Ashburton. The desert's edge. Barren and wretched region. Low ridges and spinifex. Deep native well. Thermometer 18°. Salt bush and Acacia flats. A rocky cleft. Sandhills in sight. Enter the desert. The solitary caravan. Severe ridges of sand. Camels poisoned in the night. In doubt, and resolved. Water by digging. More camels attacked. A horrible and poisonous region. Variable weather. Thick ice. A deadly Upas-tree.

Though the camels returned early from where the water was found, some of them required a rest on the soft ground on the banks of the creek, and as there were good bushes here also, we remained for the rest of the day. The night set in very close and oppressive, and a slight rain fell. On the morning of May the 8th there was some appearance of more rain, and as we were camped upon ground liable to be flooded, I decided to be off at once to some higher ground, which we reached in about two miles down the creek. While we were packing up, and during the time we were travelling, the rain came down sufficiently heavily to wet us all thoroughly. We got to the side of a stony hill, put up our tents and tarpaulins, and then enjoyed the rain exceedingly, except that our senses of enjoyment were somewhat blunted, for all of us had been attacked with ophthalmia for several days previously. Livingstone remarks in one of his works that, in Africa, attacks of ophthalmia generally precede rain. The rain fell occasionally throughout the remainder of the day and during the night. “All night long, in fitful pauses, falling far, but faint and fine.” By the next morning it had flooded the small lateral channels; this, however, caused a very slight trickling down the channel of the larger creek. The following day was windy and cloudy, but no more rain fell; about an inch and a half had fallen altogether. We remained in camp to-day, and dried all our things. The position of the camp was in latitude 24° 12´ 8´´ and longitude about 118° 20´.

Glen Ross.

On the 10th of May we left, still following our creek about east-north-east. We have had, a line of hills to the north of us for some distance, but now at five miles this fell off, and some other hills on the south, running up close to the creek, turned its course up to the north, and in two or three miles it ran into a most picturesque and romantic glen, which had now a rushing torrent roaring through its centre. Here no doubt some permanent water exists, as we not only saw great quantities of mussel shells at deserted native camps, but Alec Ross saw a large rocky water reservoir in the glen, in which were quantities of good-sized fish. The camels could not pass through this glen, it was too rocky; they therefore had to travel along the top of a precipice of red and white granite. That overlooked it on the eastern side. The noise of waters rushing over the rocky bottom of this stone-bound glen, was music sweet, and sound melodious, to ears like ours, so unaccustomed to the beautiful cadences of Nature's pure and soothing voice. The atmosphere was pure and clear, the breeze fresh, the temperature such as man may enjoy; and this was one of those few and seldom-met-with, places where the wanderer's eye may rest for a moment with pleasure as it scans the scene around. The verdure of the glen, the bright foliage of the trees that lined the banks of the stream below, the sparkling water as it danced and glittered in the sunlight, the slow and majestic motion of the passing caravan, as it wound so snake-like along the top of the precipitous wall, combined with the red and white colouring of the rifted granite of which it is composed, formed a picture framed in the retina of his eye, which is ever pleasing to the traveller to remember, and a pleasure also to describe. I have named this pretty place Glen Ross, after my young friend Alec. We got the caravan easily enough up on top of the wall, the difficulty was to get it down again. A very steep place had to be negotiated, and we were more than an hour in descending to ground not a hundred yards below us. Camels are not designed for going down places of this kind, with loads on; but they have so many other splendid qualities, that I cannot censure them for not possessing the faculty of climbing like cats or monkeys.

From a hill near the mouth of this glen it could be seen that this creek ran into a much larger one, in the course of three or four miles. There also appeared a kind of valley in which the new creek lay; it and its valley seemed to run east and west. On arrival at this new feature the following morning, I found the channel very broad and sandy-bedded, with fine vigorous eucalyptus timber growing upon either bank. I was at once certain that this new feature was the upper portion of the Ashburton River, which enters the sea upon the west coast. It has always been supposed to be the largest river in Western Australia. No traveller had ever reached so high a point up it previously; of course its flow was to the west. Only a small stream of water was running down its bed, caused no doubt by the late rains. The valley down which it runs is so confined and stony, that no sufficient areas of country suitable for occupation can be had on it, in this neighbourhood. Its course was nearly from the east, and we followed along its banks. In the immediate neighbourhood there was very fine grass and herbage. I struck it in latitude 24° 5´, and longitude 118° 30´. A branch creek joins it from the north-east at nine miles. I encamped upon it for the first time on the 11th of May. In our progress up this river — I use the term in its Australian sense, for at this portion the Ashburton might be termed a dry river only — we found a slight stream of water trickling along its bed. The banks are low, the bed is broad. We had to travel mainly in the sandy bed, as this proved the best travelling ground in general, the valley being both narrow and stony. On the second day it appeared that the only water that ran down the bed came from another creek, which joined from the south; above that spot the Ashburton channel was quite dry, although we occasionally found small ponds of water in the sand here and there. At night, on the 12th, there was none where we camped; the river still ran nearly east and west. That hideous and objectionable vegetation, the Triodia irritans, or spinifex, was prevalent even in places where the waters sometimes flowed. We have had plenty of this enemy ever since we left Mount Gould. No natives were seen, or appear to exist here. A few strips of good country occur occasionally on the banks of the river, but not in areas of sufficient extent to be of any use for occupation. Neither man, beast, bird, nor fish was to be seen, only an odd and apparently starving crow was occasionally heard. As we travelled farther up the river, there was even less appearance of rain having fallen; but the grass and herbage is green and fresh, and it may be it was visited by rains previously. There are excellent acacia and other leguminous bushes for the camels.

On the 13th of May we came to a very strange spot, where a number of whitish, flat-topped hills hemmed in the river, and where the conjunction of three or four other creeks occurred with the Ashburton, which now appeared to come from the south, its tributaries coming from the east and north-east. On the most northerly channel, Peter Nicholls shot a very large snake; it was nearly nine feet long, was a foot round the girth, and weighed nearly fifty pounds. It was a perfect monster for Australia. Had we been without food, what a godsend it would have been to us! It would have made two or three good meals for the whole party. I called this place the Grand Junction Depot, as the camp was not moved from there for thirteen days. The position of the camp at this Grand Junction was in latitude 24° 6´ 8´´, and longitude 119°. At this time I had a second attack of ophthalmia; but on the 15th, thinking I was recovering, I went away in company with Alec Ross to penetrate as far north as the 23rd parallel of latitude, as I was in hopes of finding some new hills or ranges in that locality that might extend for a distance eastwards. We took four camels with us, three being the same animals which Alec and I took when we found the Boundary Dam.

Leaving the depot, we went up the most easterly of the creeks that came in at the Grand Junction. In its channel I saw some of the milk or sow-thistle plant growing — the Sonchus oleraceus. I have met this plant in only four places during my explorations. The trend of the creek was nearly from the east-north-east. At six miles the gum-timber disappeared from the creek, and the channel being confined by hills, we were in a kind of glen, with plenty of running water to splash through. A great quantity of tea-tree — Melaleuca — grew in the creek bed. There we saw another large snake, but not of such dimensions as Nicholls's victim. At ten miles up from the depot the glen ceased, and the creek ran through a country more open on the north bank. We camped at about twenty miles. During the day we saw some native poplars, quandong, or native peach, capparis, or native orange, and a few scented sandal-wood-trees; nearly all of these different kinds of trees were very stunted in their growth. At night my eyes were so much inflamed and so painful with ophthalmia, that I could scarcely see. The next day we steered north-north-east, the ground being very stony and bad for travelling. We passed some low hills at seven or eight miles, and at twenty-one we encamped in a dry, stony creek channel. The following day the country was almost identical in its nature, only that we found a small pool of water at night in a creek, our course being still the same. My eyes had been so bad all day, I was in agony; I had no lotion to apply to them. At length I couldn't see at all, and Alec Ross had to lead the camels, with mine tied behind them. I not only couldn't see, I couldn't open my eyes, and had no idea where I was going. That day Alec sighted a range of somewhat high hills to our left; he next saw another range having rounded, dome-like masses about it, and this lay across our path. Alec ascended one of the hills, and informed me that he saw an extensive mass of hills and ranges in every direction but the east. To the north they extended a great distance, but they rose into the highest points at two remarkable peaks to the north-west, and these, although I cannot be certain exactly where they are situated, I have named respectively Mount Robinson and The Governor, in the hope that these designations will remain as lasting memorials of the intelligent and generous interest displayed by Governor Robinson in the exploration of the province under his sway. The country to the east is all level; no ranges whatever appear in that direction. From what Alec saw and described to me, it was evident that we were upon the edge of the desert, as if the ranges ceased to the east, it was not likely that any watercourses could exist without them. No watercourses could be seen in any direction, except that from which we had come. It was a great disappointment to me to get such information, as I had hoped to discover some creeks or rivers that might carry me some distance farther eastward; but now it was evident they did not exist. I called this range, whose almost western end Alec ascended, Ophthalmia Range, in consequence of my suffering so much from that frightful malady. I could not take any observations, and I cannot be very certain where this range lies. I wanted to reach the 23rd parallel, but as the country looked so gloomy and forbidding farther north, it was useless plunging for only a few miles more into such a smashed and broken region. By careful estimate it was quite fair to assume that we had passed the Tropic of Capricorn by some miles, as my estimated latitude here was 23° 15´, and longitude about 119° 37´. I was in such pain that I ordered an instant retreat, my only desire being to get back to the depot and repose in the shade.

This was the 18th of May, and though the winter season ought to have set in, and cool weather should have been experienced, yet we had nothing of the kind, but still had to swelter under the enervating rays of the burning sun of this shadeless land; and at night, a sleeping-place could only be obtained by removing stones, spinifex, and thorny vegetation from the ground. The latter remark, it may be understood, does not apply to only this one place or line of travel; it was always the case. After returning for a few miles on our outcoming tracks, Alec found a watercourse that ran south-westerly, and as it must eventually fall into the Ashburton, we followed it. In travelling down its course on the 22nd the creek became enclosed by hills on either side, and we found an extraordinary rocky spring. The channel of the creek dropped suddenly down to a lower level, which, when in flood, must no doubt form a splendid cascade. Now a person could stand on a vast boulder of granite and look down at the waters, as they fell in little sprays from the springs that supplied the spot; the small streams rushing out from among the fissures of the broken rocks, and all descending into a fine basin below. To Alec's eyes was this romantic scene displayed. The rocks above, below, and around, were fringed and decked with various vegetations; shrubs and small trees ornamented nearly the whole of the surrounding rocks, amongst which the native fig-tree, Ficus platypoda, was conspicuous. It must have been a very pretty place. I could hear the water rushing and splashing, but could not see anything. It appeared also that the water ran out of the basin below into the creek channel, which goes on its course apparently through or into a glen. I describe this peculiar freak of nature from what Alec told me; I hope my description will not mislead others. Soon after we found that this was the case, as we now entered an exceedingly rough and rocky glen full of water — at least so it appeared to Alec, who could see nothing but water as far down as he could look. At first the water was between three and four feet deep; the farther we went the deeper the water became. Could any one have seen us we must have presented a very novel sight, as the camels got nearly up to their humps in water, and would occasionally refuse to go on; they would hang back, break their nose-ropes, and then lie quietly down until they were nearly drowned. We had to beat and pull them up the best way we could. It was rather disagreeable for a blind man to slip off a camel up to his neck in cold water, and, lifting up his eyelids with both hands, try to see what was going on. Having, however, gone so far, we thought it best to continue, as we expected the glen to end at any turn; but the water became so deep that Alec's riding cow Buzoe, being in water deep enough for her to swim in, if she could swim, refused to go any farther, and thought she would like to lie down. This she tried, but the water was too deep for her to keep her head above it, and after being nearly smothered she got up again:—

“And now to issue from the glen,

No pathway meets the wand'rers' ken,

Unless they climb, with footing nice,

A far-projecting precipice.”

It would be out of all propriety to expect a camel to climb a precipice; fortunately at a few yards further a turn of the glen showed Alec a place on the southern bank where a lot of rocks had fallen down. It was with the greatest difficulty we got to it, and with still greater that at last we reached the top of the cliff, and said good-bye to this watery glen. Our clothes, saddles, blankets, and food were soaked to a pulp. We could not reach the depot that night, but did so early on the following day. I called this singular glen in which the camels were nearly drowned, Glen Camel.

No natives had visited the camp, nor had any living thing, other than flies, been seen, while we were away, except a few pigeons. The camp at this depot was fixed on the soft, sandy bed of the Ashburton, close to the junction of the east creek, which Alec and I had followed up. It had been slightly flooded by the late rains, and two open ponds of clear water remained in the bed of the Ashburton. It seems probable that water might always be procured here by digging, but it is certainly not always visible on the surface. Once or twice before reaching the depot, we saw one or two places with dried-up bulrushes growing in the bed, and water may have existed there in the sand. In consequence of my eyes being so bad, we remained here for the next two days. The heat and the flies were dreadful; and the thermometer indicated 93° one day and 95° the next, in the shade. It was impossible to get a moment's peace or rest from the attacks of the flies; the pests kept eating into our eyes, which were already bad enough. This seemed to be the only object for which these wretches were invented and lived, and they also seemed to be quite ready and willing to die, rather than desist a moment from their occupation. Everybody had an attack of the blight, as ophthalmia is called in Australia, which with the flies were enough to set any one deranged. Every little sore or wound on the hands or face was covered by them in swarms; they scorned to use their wings, they preferred walking to flying; one might kill them in millions, yet other, and hungrier millions would still come on, rejoicing in the death of their predecessors, as they now had not only men's eyes and wounds to eat, but could batten upon the bodies of their slaughtered friends also. Strange to say, we were not troubled here with ants; had we been, we should only have required a few spears stuck into us to complete our happiness. A very pretty view was to be obtained from the summit of any of the flat-topped hills in this neighbourhood, and an area of nearly 100 square miles of excellent country might be had here.

On Friday, the 26th of May, we left the depot at this Grand Junction. The river comes to this place from the south for some few miles. In ten miles we found that it came through a low pass, which hems it in for some distance. Two or three tributaries joined, and above them its bed had become considerably smaller than formerly. At about eighteen miles from the depot we came upon a permanent water, fed by springs, which fell into a fine rock reservoir, and in this, we saw many fish disporting themselves in their pure and pellucid pond. Several of the fishes were over a foot long. The water was ten or more feet deep. A great quantity of tea-tree, Melaleuca, grew in the river-bed here; indeed, our progress was completely stopped by it, and we had to cut down timber for some distance to make a passage for the camels before we could get past the place, the river being confined in a glen. Peter Nicholls was the first white man who ever saw this extraordinary place, and I have called it Nicholls's Fish Ponds after him. It will be noticed that the characteristics of the only permanent waters in this region are rocky springs and reservoirs, such as Saleh's Fish Ponds, Glen Ross, Glen Camel, and Nicholls's Fish Ponds will show. More junctions occurred in this neighbourhood, and it was quite evident that the main river could not exist much farther, as immediately above every tributary its size became manifestly reduced.

On the 27th of May we camped close to a red hill on the south bank of the river; just below it, was another spring, at which a few reeds and some bulrushes were growing. The only views from any of the hills near the river displayed an almost unvarying scene; low hills near the banks of the river, and some a trifle higher in the background. The river had always been in a confined valley from the time we first struck it, and it was now more confined than ever. On the morning of the 28th of May we had a frost for the first time this year, the thermometer indicating 28°. To-day we crossed several more tributaries, mostly from the north side; but towards evening the river split in two, at least here occurred the junction of two creeks of almost equal size, and it was difficult to determine which was the main branch. I did not wish to go any farther south, therefore I took the more northerly one; its trend, as our course for some days past had been, was a good deal south of east; indeed, we have travelled about east-south-east since leaving the depot. In the upper portions of the river we found more water in the channel than we had done lower down; perhaps more rain had fallen in these hills.

By the 29th, the river or creek-channel had become a mere thread; the hills were lowering, and the country in the glen and outside was all stones and scrub. We camped at a small rain-water hole about a mile and a half from a bluff hill, from whose top, a few stunted gum-trees could be seen a little farther up the channel. Having now run the Ashburton up to its head, I could scarcely expect to find any more water before entering Gibson's Desert, which I felt sure commences here. So far as I knew, the next water was in the Rawlinson Range of my former horse expedition, a distance of over 450 miles. And what the nature of the country between was, no human being knew, at least no civilised human being. I was greatly disappointed to find that the Ashburton River did not exist for a greater distance eastwards than this, as when I first struck it, it seemed as though it would carry me to the eastwards for hundreds of miles. I had followed it only eighty or a trifle more, and now it was a thing of the past. It may be said to rise from nowhere, being like a vast number of Australian rivers, merely formed in its lower portions by the number of tributaries that join it. There are very few pretty or romantic places to be seen near it. The country and views at the Grand Junction Depot form nearly the only exceptions met. From that point the river decreased in size with every branch creek that joined it, and now it had decreased to nothing. No high ranges form its head. The hills forming its water-shed become gradually lower as we approach its termination, or rather beginning, at the desert's edge. The desert's edge is a raised plateau of over 2000 feet above the sea-level — the boiling point of water being 208° = 2049 feet — and being about 350 miles in a straight line from where the Ashburton debouches into the sea. My camp upon the evening of the 29th of May, a little westward of the bluff-faced hill before mentioned, was in latitude 24° 25´ and longitude 119° 58´. We remained here during the 30th. The horizon to the east was formed by a mass of low ranges; from them we saw that several diminutive watercourses ran into our exhausted channel. I could not expect that any hills would extend much farther to the east, or that I should now obtain any water much farther in that direction. A line of low ridges ran all round the eastern horizon, and another bluff-faced hill lay at the south-west end of them. The whole region had a most barren and wretched appearance, and there was little or no vegetation of any kind that the camels cared to eat. Feeling certain that I should now almost immediately enter the desert, as the explorer can scent it from afar, I had all our water-vessels filled, as fortunately there was sufficient water for the purpose, so that when we leave this camp we shall not be entirely unprepared.

The morning of the 31st of May was again cold, the thermometer falling to 27°, and we had a sharp frost. I was truly delighted to welcome this long-expected change, and hoped the winter or cool season had set in at last. This day we travelled east, and went over low, rough ridges and stony spinifex hills for several miles. At about eleven miles, finding a dry water-channel, which, however, had some good camel shrubs upon its banks, we encamped in latitude 24° 28´, being still among low ridges, where no definite view could be obtained. On June the 1st we travelled nearly east-north-east towards another low ridge. The ground became entirely covered with spinifex, and I thought we had entered the desert in good earnest; but at about six miles we came upon a piece of better country with real grass, being much more agreeable to look at. Going on a short distance we came upon a dry water-channel, at which we found a deep native well with bitter water in it. We encamped in latitude 24° 24´. The night and following morning were exceedingly cold — the thermometer fell to 18°.

We had not yet reached the low ridge, but arrived at it in two miles on the morning of the 2nd. From it another low ridge bore 23° north of east, and I decided to travel thither.

To-day we had a good deal of country covered with ironstone gravel; we passed a few grassy patches with, here and there, some salt bush and acacia flats; there were also many desert shrubs and narrow thickets. The camp was fixed nearly under the brow of the ridge we had steered for, and it was quite evident, though a few ridges yet appeared for a short distance farther east, that we had at length reached the desert's edge and the commencement of the watershed of the western coast. It will be observed that in my journey through the scrubs to Perth, I had met with no creeks or water-sheds at all, until after I reached the first outlying settlement.

The question which now arose was, what kind of country existed between us and my farthest watered point in 1874 at the Rawlinson Range? In a perfectly straight line it would be 450 miles. The latitude of this camp was 24° 16´ 6´´. I called it the Red Ridge camp. Since my last attack of ophthalmia, I suffer great pain and confusion when using the sextant. The attack I have mentioned in this journey was by no means the only one I have had on my numerous journeys; I have indeed had more or less virulent attacks for the last twenty years, and I believe the disease is now chronic, though suppressed. From the Red Ridge camp we went about eight miles east-north-east, and I found under a mass of low scrubby hills or rises tipped with red sandstone, a rocky cleft in the ground, round about which were numerous old native encampments; I could see water under a rock; the cleft was narrow, and slanted obliquely downwards; it was not wide enough to admit a bucket. There was amply sufficient water for all my camels, but it was very tedious work to get enough out with a quart pot; the rock was sandstone. There was now no doubt in my mind, that all beyond this point was pure and unrelieved desert, for we were surrounded by spinifex, and the first waves of the dreaded sandhills were in view. The country was entirely open, and only a sandy undulation to the eastward bounded the horizon. The desert had to be crossed, or at least attempted, even if it had been 1000 miles in extent; I therefore wasted no time in plunging into it, not delaying to encamp at this last rocky reservoir. After watering our camels we made our way for about four miles amongst the sandhills. As we passed by, I noticed a solitary desert oak-tree, Casuarina decaisneana, and a number of the Australian grass-trees, Xanthorrhoea. The country was almost destitute of timber, except that upon the tops of the parallel lines of red sandhills, which mostly ran in a north-east and south-west direction, a few stunted specimens of the eucalypt, known as blood-wood or red gum existed. This tree grows to magnificent proportions in Queensland, and down the west coast from Fremantle, always in a watered region. Heaven only knows how it ever got here, or how it could grow on the tops of red sandhills. Having stopped to water our camels at the rocky cleft, our first day's march into the desert was only eleven miles. Our camp at night was in latitude 24° 12´ 22´´.

The next day all signs of rises, ridges, hills, or ranges, had disappeared behind the sandhills of the western horizon, and the solitary caravan was now launched into the desert, like a ship upon the ocean, with nothing but Providence and our latitude to depend upon, to enable us to reach the other side.

The following morning, Sunday, the 4th June, was remarkably warm, the thermometer not having descended during the night to less than 60°, though only two mornings ago it was down to 18°. I now travelled so as gradually to reach the 24th parallel, in hopes some lines of hills or ranges might be discovered near it. Our course was east by north. We had many severe ridges of sand to cross, and this made our rate of travelling very slow. We saw one desert oak-tree and a few currajong-trees of the order of Sterculias, some grass-trees, quandong, or native peach, Fusanus, a kind of sandal-wood, and the red gum or blood-wood-trees; the latter always grows upon ground as high as it can get, and therefore ornaments the tops of the sandhills, while all the first-named trees frequent the lower ground between them. To-day we only made good twenty miles, though we travelled until dark, hoping to find some food, or proper bushes for the camels; but, failing in this, had to turn them out at last to find what sustenance they could for themselves. On the following morning, when they were brought up to the camp — at least when some of them were — I was informed that several had got poisoned in the night, and were quite unable to move, while one or two of them were supposed to be dying. This, upon the outskirt of the desert, was terrible news to hear, and the question of what's to be done immediately arose; but it was answered almost as soon, by the evident fact that nothing could be done, because half the camels could not move, and it would be worse than useless to pack up the other half and leave them. So we quietly remained and tended our sick and dying ones so well, that by night one of the worst was got on his legs again. We made them sick with hot water, butter, and mustard, and gave them injections with the clyster pipe as well; the only substance we could get out of them was the chewed-up Gyrostemon ramulosus, which, it being nearly dark, we had not observed when we camped. We drove the mob some distance to another sandhill, where there was very little of this terrible scourge, and the next morning I was delighted to find that the worst ones and the others were evidently better, although they were afflicted with staggers and tremblings of the hind limbs. I was rather undecided what to do, whether to push farther at once into the desert or retreat to the last rocky cleft water, now over five-and-twenty miles behind us. But, as Othello says, once to be in doubt is once to be resolved, and I decided that, as long as they could stagger, the camels should stagger on. In about twelve miles Alec Ross and Tommy found a place where the natives had formerly obtained water by digging. Here we set to work and dug a well, but only got it down twelve feet by night, no water making its appearance. The next morning we were at it again, and at fifteen feet we saw the fluid we were delving for. The water was yellowish, but pure, and there was apparently a good supply. We had, unfortunately, hit on the top of a rock that covered nearly the whole bottom, and what water we got came in only at one corner. Two other camels were poisoned in the night, but those that were first attacked were a trifle better.

On the 8th of June more camels were attacked, and it was impossible to get out of this horrible and poisonous region. The wretched country seems smothered with the poisonous plant. I dread the reappearance of every morning, for fear of fresh and fatal cases. This plant, the Gyrostemon, does not seem a certain deadly poison, but as I lost one camel by death from it, at Mr. Palmer's camp, near Geraldton, and so many are continually becoming prostrated by its virulence, it may be well understood how we dread the sight of it, for none can tell how soon or how many of our animals might be killed. As it grows here, all over the country, the unpoisoned camels persist in eating it; after they have had a shock, however, they generally leave it entirely alone; but there is, unfortunately, nothing else for them to eat here.

The weather now is very variable. The thermometer indicated only 18° this morning, and we had thick ice in all the vessels that contained any water overnight; but in the middle of the day it was impossible to sit with comfort, except in the shade. The flies still swarmed in undiminished millions; there are also great numbers of the small and most annoying sand-flies, which, though almost too minute to be seen, have a marvellous power of making themselves felt. The well we put down was sunk in a rather large flat between the sandhills. The whole country is covered with spinifex in every direction, and this, together with the poisonous bushes and a few blood-wood-trees, forms the only vegetation. The pendulous fringe instead of leaves on the poison bush gives it a strange and weird appearance, and to us it always presents the hideous, and terrible form of a deadly Upas-tree.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54