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 depot — 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.
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 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 Depot 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 Depot in less than 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 Depot, 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 degrees, the morning 46 degrees. 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 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 Depot, 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 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 (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.
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 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.
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 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.
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, 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 degrees. 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, 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 Depot, 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 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 Depot, 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 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 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 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 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 degrees and 100 degrees 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 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 Depot. 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 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 degrees 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, 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 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 depot 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 thunder shower at the Depot 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 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 degrees, 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 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 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, 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, 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 of the task I had undertaken. When I left the Depot 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 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 2 1/2 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.
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 Depot 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 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 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, 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, salsolae, 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 degrees, or little more than a N. and by W. course. At 6 1/2 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 degrees, 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 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 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 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 degrees, 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 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 and flats on a bearing of 346 degrees, 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 salsolae, 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 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 Depot 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 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 degrees 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 degrees 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 bearing 308 degrees, 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 terior, over which it came: the thermometer stood at 42 degrees. We started on a course of 335 degrees 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 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.
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