Toonda’s tribe — disposition of the natives — arrival of Camboli — his energy of character — Mr. Poole’s return — leave the Darling — remarks on that river — Cawndilla — the old Boocolo — leave the camp for the hills — reach a creek — wells — Topar’s misconduct — ascend the ranges — return homewards — leave Cawndilla with a party — reach Parnari — move to the hills — journey to N. west — heavy rains — return to camp — Mr. Poole leaves — leave the ranges — descent to the plains — Mr. Poole’s return — his report — Flood’s creek — aquatic birds — ranges diminish in height.
Toonda left us on our arrival at this place, to go to his tribe at Cawndilla, but returned the day Mr. Poole left us, with the lubras and children belonging to it, and the natives now mustered round us to the number of sixty-six. Nadbuck, who the reader will have observed was a perfect lady’s man, made fires for the women, and they were all treated as our first visitors had been with a cup of tea and a lump of sugar. These people could not have shewn a greater mark of confidence in us than by this visit; but the circumstances under which we arrived amongst them, the protection we had given to some of their tribe, and the kind treatment we had adopted towards the natives generally, in some measure accounted for this, nevertheless there was a certain restlessness amongst the men that satisfied me they would not have hesitated in the gratification of revenge if they could have mustered sufficiently strong, or could have caught us unprepared.
It was clear that the natives still remembered the first visit the Europeans had made to them, and its consequences, and that they were very well disposed to retaliate. It was in this matter that Nadbuck’s conduct and representations were of essential service, for he did not hesitate to tell them what they might expect if they appeared in arms. Mr. Poole was short and stout like Sir Thomas Mitchell, and personally very much resembled him; moreover, he wore a blue foraging cap, as, I believe, Sir Thomas did; be that as it may, they took Mr. Poole for that officer, and were exceedingly sulky, and Nadbuck informed us that they would certainly spear him. It was necessary, therefore, to explain to them that he was not the individual for whom they took him, and we could only allay their feelings by the strongest assurances to that effect; for some time, indeed, they were inclined to doubt what we said, but at length they expressed great satisfaction, and to secure himself still more Mr. Poole put on a straw hat. Nevertheless, there were manifestations of turbulence amongst the younger men on several occasions, and they certainly meditated, even though, for particular reasons, they refrained from any act of violence.
The constant rain had made the ground in a sad state. There was scarcely any stirring out of the tents into the tenacious clay of the flat in which they were pitched; and the Darling, continuing to rise, overflowed its banks, drove our cattle from their feed, and obliged us to send them to a more distant point. In the midst of all this we were, on the 13th, most agreeably surprised by the appearance of our friend Camboli, with two other natives from Lake Victoria. Camboli brought despatches and letters in reply to those I had sent from the lake. It is impossible to describe the unaffected joy this poor native evinced on seeing us again. He had travelled hard to overtake us, and his condition when he arrived, as well as that of his companions proved that they had not spared themselves; but neither of them shewed the same symptoms of fatigue as Camboli. His thighs and ancles, and the calves of his legs were much swollen, and he complained of severe pain in his back and loins; but he was excited beyond measure, and sprang about with surprising activity whilst his comrades fell fast asleep. “Papung,” he exclaimed, meaning paper or letters. “I bring papung to Boocolo,” meaning me; “to Sacoback,” meaning Doctor Browne; “and Mr. Poole, from Gobbernor,” the Governor; “Hugomattin,” Mr. Eyre; “Merilli,” Mr. Scott of Moorundi; “and Bullocky Bob. Papung Gobbernor, Boocolo, Hugomattin.” Nothing could stop him, nor would he sit still for a moment. There were, at the fire near the tents, a number of the young men of the Williorara tribe; and it would appear, from what occurred, that they were talking about us in no friendly strain. Certain it is that they made some remark which highly offended our lately arrived envoy, for he suddenly sprang upon his feet, and, seizing a carabine, shook it at them in defiance, and, pointing to the tents, again shook it with all the energy and fearlessness of a savage, and he afterwards told us that the natives were “murry saucy.” The scene was of a kind that is seldom if ever witnessed in civilized life.
The reader may be assured we took good care of him and his companions; but his excitement continued, even after he had laid down to sleep; yet, he was the first man up on the following morning, to cut a canoe for Mr. Browne, who wished to cross the river, with a young lad of the name of Topar, a native of the place, who had been recommended to me by Mr. Eyre, a fine handsome young man, about eighteen years of age, and exceedingly prepossessing in appearance; but I am sorry to say with very few good qualities. He was a boy about eight when Sir Thomas Mitchell visited the neighbourhood, and, with his mother, was present at the unfortunate misunderstanding between his men and the natives on that occasion.
The bark was not in a fit state to be stripped from the tree, so that Camboli had a fatiguing task, but he got the canoe ready in sufficient time for Mr. Browne to cross the river and visit Sir Thomas Mitchell’s last camp, which I had intended doing myself, in order to connect it with my own, if circumstances had not, at that time, prevented me.
Mr. Poole returned on the 15th, after an absence of four days and a half. He informed me that he had crossed the creek, as I had imagined, where there was little or no vegetation in its vicinity. He then took up a north-west course for the hills, and rode over flats of polygonum for nine miles, when he crossed the bed of a large lagoon; arriving at a round hill, somewhat detached from the main range, at half-past one, and searched about for water, but found none, neither could the native point out any to him. He therefore descended to the plains, and encamped.
On the following morning Mr. Poole again crossed the hill he had ascended the day before, but at half-past one changed his course for a high peak on the same range, on the summit of which he arrived at 2 p.m.; but the day was unfavourable, and the bearings from it consequently uncertain. The following morning being clear he again ascended the hill, and took the following bearings:— To the point of a distant range N. 54 degrees W.; to a very distant cone, 00 or due north; to a peak in a distant range, S. 40 degrees W.; to a lake, S. 20 degrees W.; and to another distant range, S. 65 degrees W. The country between the ranges Mr. Poole had ascended and the more distant ones, appeared to be flat, and covered with brush and speargrass. There was an appearance of water between the ranges, and they looked like islands in an immense lake. He did not think he could have been deceived by the effect of mirage; but felt satisfied, according to his own judgment, that he had seen a large body of water to the N.W. Mr. Poole did not succeed in finding any convenient place to which to remove the party, and his guide persisting in his statement that there was no water in the hills, he thought it better to return to the camp.
However doubtful I might have been as to the reality of the existence of water in the direction to which Mr. Poole referred, it was clear that there were other and loftier ranges beyond those visible from the river. Taking everything into consideration, I determined on moving the camp to Cawndilla, and on proceeding myself to the north-west as soon as I should have established it in a secure place.
I was employed on the 16th in reporting our progress to the Governor, as Nadbuck and Camboli were to leave us in the afternoon on their return to Lake Victoria. Both were exceedingly impatient to commence their journey, but when I came out with the bag old Nadbuck evinced great emotion and sorrow, nor could we look on the departure of our old and tried guide without regret. He had really served us well and faithfully, and if he had anything to do in propagating the several reports by which we had been deceived in our progress up the Darling, I believe it was with a view to prevent our going into a country from which he thought we should never return. We rewarded him as he deserved, and sent both him and his companions away with provisions sufficient to last them during the greater part of their journey, but we afterwards learnt that with the improvident generosity of the savage, they had appointed to meet a number of their friends in the bush, and consumed their whole supply before sunset.
The weather had cleared, and as we were enabled to connect the Darling with the hilly country, I directed Mr. Poole to measure a base line from a point at the back of our camp to the westward. This base line ran along the sandy ridge above the flats of Laidley’s Ponds towards Cawndilla, so that we had no detention, but left the Darling on the 17th.
The drays started early in the forenoon, but I remained until two, to take some lunars with Mr. Browne. At that hour we rode along the dray tracks, and at six miles descended into the bed of the lake, and crossing a portion of it arrived at the camp at half-past five. The floods were just crossing the dray tracks as we passed, and gradually advancing into the basin. The ground was cracked and marked with narrow but deep fissures into which the waters fell as they rolled onwards, and it was really surprising to see the immense quantity these chasms required to fill them.
Having taken leave of the Darling, it may be as well that I should make a few general remarks upon it. The reader will have observed from my description, that the scenery on the banks is picturesque and cheerful, that its trees though of smaller size than those on the Murray, are more graceful and have a denser foliage and more drooping habit, and that the flats contiguous to the stream are abundantly grassy. I have described the river as I found it, but I would not have the reader suppose that it always presents the same luxuriant appearance, for not many months before this period my persevering friend Mr. Eyre, on a journey up its banks, could hardly find grass sufficient for his horses. There was not a blade of vegetation on the flats, but little water in the river, and the whole scenery wore a most barren appearance. Countries, however, the summer heat of which is so excessive, as in Australia, are always subject to such changes, nor is it any argument against their soil, that it should at one season of the year look bare and herbless. That part of the Darling between Laidley’s Ponds and its junction with the Murray, a distance of about 100 miles in a direct line, had not been previously explored, nor had I time to lay it regularly down. I should say from the appearance of its channel that it is seldom very deep, frequently dry at intervals, and that its floods are uncertain, sudden, and very temporary. That they rise rapidly may be implied from the fact that in two days the floods we witnessed rose more than nine feet, and that they come from the higher branches of the river there can be no doubt, since the Darling has no tributary between Laidley’s Ponds and Fort Bourke. I have no doubt but the whole line of the river will sooner or later be occupied, and that both its soil and climate will be found to suit the purpose both of the grazier and the agriculturist. Be that as it may, I regretted abandoning it, for I felt assured that in doing so our difficulties and trials would commence.
Our camp at Cawndilla was on the right bank of the Williorara, about half a mile above where it enters the lake. Without intending it, we dispossessed the natives of the ground which they had occupied before our arrival, but they were not offended. Our tents stood on a sand bank close to the creek, and was shaded by gum-trees and banksias; behind us to the S.W. there were extensive open plains, and along the edge of the basin of Cawndilla, as well as to some distance in its bed, there was an abundance of feed for our cattle: the locality would be of great value as a station if it were near the located districts of South Australia.
The term Boocolo is I believe generally given to the chief or elder of the tribe, and thus was applied by the natives to me, as chief of the party. The boocolo of the Cawndilla tribe was an old man with grey hairs and rather sharp features, below the ordinary stature, but well made and active. Of all the race with whom I have communicated, his manners were the most pleasing. There was a polish in them, a freedom and grace that would have befitted a drawing-room. It was his wont to visit my tent every day at noon, and to sleep during the heat; but he invariably asked permission to do this before he composed himself to rest, and generally laid down at my feet. Differing from the majority of the natives, he never asked for anything, and although present during our meals kept away from the table. If offered anything he received it with becoming dignity, and partook of it without displaying that greedy voracity which the natives generally exhibit over their meals. He was a man, I should say, in intellect and feeling greatly in advance of his fellows. We all became exceedingly partial to this old man, and placed every confidence in him; although, as he did not understand the language of the Murray natives, we gained little information from him as to the remote country.
The boocolo of Cawndilla had two sons; but as the circumstances under which they were more particularly brought forward occurred on the return of the expedition from the interior, I shall not mention them here; but will conclude these remarks by describing an event that took place the day after our removal from the Darling. The men who had been out chaining left the flags standing after their work, and came to the camp. When Mr. Poole went out the next morning he found that one of them had been taken away. The natives, when charged with the theft, stoutly denied it, and said that it had been stolen by one of the Darling tribe in returning to the river. I therefore directed him, as he generally superintended the issue of presents and provisions to the natives, to stop all further supplies. The old boocolo failed in his endeavours to recover the flag, and the natives who visited the camp were evidently under restraint. On the following day the boocolo came to my tent, and I spoke angrily to him. “Why,” I asked, “has the black fellow taken that which did not belong to him? I do not take anything from you. I do not kill your kangaroos or take your fish.” The old man was certainly much annoyed, and went out of the tent to our fire, at which there were several natives with whom he had an earnest conversation; this terminated by two of them starting for the Darling, from whence, on the following day, they brought back the flag and staff, which they said had been taken by three of the Darling natives as they had stated already. Probably such was the case, and we admitted the excuse.
The base line was completed on the 19th, and measured six miles. I was anxious to have made it of greater length, but the ground would not admit of it. The angles were necessarily very acute; but the bearings were frequently repeated, and found to agree. I was the less anxious on the point because my intention was to check any error by another line as soon as I could.
The position we had taken up was a very favourable one, since being on the right or northern bank of the creek, we were, by the flooding of the lake, cut off from the Darling natives. I now therefore determined on making an excursion into the interior to the N.W., to examine the ranges seen by Mr. Poole, and to ascertain if, as he supposed, there was a body of water to the westward of them. With this view I engaged Topar to accompany us, and on the 21st left the camp, with Mr. Browne, Flood, and Morgan, taking the light cart with our provisions and some water-casks. During the recent rains the weather had been very cold, but excessive heat succeeded it. The day before we started the thermometer rose as high as 112 degrees during a violent hot wind; and certainly if the following day had been equally warm we could not have proceeded on our journey. Fortunately for us, however, the wind shifted to the S.W. during the night, and the morning was cool and refreshing. I should have commenced this trip two or three days earlier, but on the 20th we were surprised by the reappearance of old Nadbuck, who had turned back with some natives he met on the way to our camp, with letters from Moorundi. The old man was really overjoyed to see us again. He said he had left Camboli well advanced on his journey, and that he would have reached Lake Victoria before he (Nadbuck) had reached us. Some of the letters he brought requiring answers, I was unable to arrange for my intended departure on the 19th. The 20th being a day of excessive heat, we could not have ventured abroad; but as I have stated, on the 21st we commenced the journey under more favourable circumstances than we had anticipated. The old boocolo took leave of Mr. Browne and myself, according, I suppose, to the custom of his people, by placing his hands on our shoulders and bending his head so as to touch our breasts; in doing which he shed tears. Topar, seated on the cart, was followed by his mother who never expected to see him again. I had given Topar a blanket, which he now gave to his parent, and thus set off with us as naked as he was born. I mention this the more readily because I have much to detail to his discredit, and therefore in justice, I think, I am bound to record anything to his advantage. At a quarter of a mile from the camp we crossed the little sand hill which separates the two basins of Cawndilla and Minandichi, from which we descended into the flats of the latter, but at a mile rose, after crossing a small creek, to the level of the great plains extending between us and the ranges. Our first course over these plains was on a bearing of 157 degrees to the west of south, or N.N.W. nearly. They were partly covered by brush and partly open; the soil was a mixture of clay and sand, and in many places they resembled, not only in that but in their productions, the plains of Adelaide. A good deal of grass was growing on them in widely distributed tufts, but mixed with salsolaceous plants. The trees consisted of a new species of casuarina, a new caparis, with some hakea, and several species of very pretty and fragrant flowering shrubs. At twelve miles we changed our course to 135 degrees to the west of south, or N.W., and kept upon it for the remainder of the day, direct for a prominent hill in the ranges before us.7 The hills Mr. Poole had visited then bore a few degrees to the east of north, distant from twelve to fourteen miles, and were much lower than those towards which we were going, continuing northwards. The country as we advanced became more open and barren. We traversed plains covered with atriplex and rhagodiae, in the midst of which there were large bare patches of red clay. In these rain water lodges, but being exceedingly shallow they soon dry up and their surfaces become cracked and blistered. From the point at which we changed our course the ground gradually rose, and at 26 miles we ascended a small sand hill with a little grass growing upon it. From this hill we descended into and crossed a broad dry creek with a gravelly bed, and as its course lay directly parallel to our own, we kept in the shade of the gum-trees that were growing along its banks. At about four miles beyond this point Topar called out to us to stop near a native well he then shewed us, for which we might in vain have hunted. From this we got a scanty supply of bad water, after some trouble in cleaning and clearing it, insomuch that we were obliged to bale it out frequently during the night to obtain water for our horses. This creek, like others, was marked by a line of gum-trees on either side; and from the pure and clean gravel in its bed, I was led to infer that it was subject to sudden floods. We could trace the line of trees upon it running upwards to the N.W. close up to the foot of the ranges, and down southwards, until the channel seemed to be lost in the extensive flats of that depressed region.
7. Coonbaralba Station, No. 2.
Topar called this spot “Murnco Murnco.” As the horses had fared indifferently during our stay, and he assured us there was a finer well higher up the creek, we pushed on at an early hour the next morning, keeping on the proper right bank of the creek, and having an open barren country to the south, with an apparent dip to the south-west; to our left, some undulations already noticed by us, assumed more the shape of hills. The surface was in many places covered with small fragments of white quartz, which together with a conglomerate rock cropped out of the ground where it was more elevated. There was nothing green to meet the eye, except the little grass in the bed of the creek itself, and a small quantity on the plains.
At two miles on our former bearing Topar stopped close to another well, but it was dry and worthless; we therefore pushed on to the next, and after removing a quantity of rubbish, found a sufficiency of water both for ourselves and the horses, but it was bitter to the taste, and when boiled was as black as ink from the decoction of gum leaves; the water being evidently the partial and surface drainage from the hills. We stopped here however to breakfast. Whilst so employed, Topar’s quick and watchful eye caught sight of some smoke rising from the bed of the creek about a mile above us. He was now all impatience to be off, to overtake the party who had kindled it. Nothing could exceed his vehement impetuosity and impatience, but this was of no avail, as the natives who had probably seen our approach, kept in front of us and avoided a meeting. We rode for five miles on our original bearing of 135 degrees to the west of north, or N.W. the direct bearing of the hill for which we were making, Coonbaralba. At five miles Topar insisted on crossing the creek, and led us over the plains on a bearing of 157 degrees to the west of north, thus changing his purpose altogether. He assigned as a reason that there was no water in the creek higher up, and that we must go to another place where there was some. I was somewhat reluctant to consent to this, but at length gave way to him; we had not however gone more than two and a half miles, when he again caught sight of smoke due west of us, and was as earnest in his desire to return to the creek as he had been to leave it. Being myself anxious to communicate with the natives I now the more readily yielded to his entreaties. Where we came upon it there was a quantity of grass in its bed, but although we saw the fire at which they had been, the natives again escaped us. Mr. Browne and Topar ran their track up the creek, and soon reached a hut opposite to which there was a well. On ascending a little from its bed they discovered a small pool of water in the centre of a watercourse joining the main branch hereabouts from the hills. Round this little pool there was an unusual verdure. From this point we continued to trace the creek upwards, keeping it in sight; but the ground was so stony and rough, and the brush approached so close to the banks that I descended into its bed, and halted at sunset after a fatiguing day’s journey without water, about which we did not much care; the horses having had a good drink not long before and their feed being good, the want of water was not much felt by them. Topar wished to go on to some other water at which he expected to find the natives, and did not hesitate for a moment in thus contradicting his former assertion. This however I would not allow him to do alone, but Mr. Browne good-naturedly walked with him up the creek, and at less than a mile came up on a long and beautiful pond He informed me that it was serpentine in shape and more than eighty yards long, but as there was no grass in its neighbourhood I did not move to it. It was evident that Topar had intended leading us past this water, and it was owing to his anxiety to see the natives that we had now discovered it.
On the following morning I determined to take the direction of our movements on myself, and after we had breakfasted at the long water-hole, struck across the plains, and took up a course of 142 degrees to the west of south for a round hill which I proposed ascending. Topar seeing us determined, got into a state of alarm almost bordering on frenzy; he kept shouting out “kerno, kerno,” “rocks, rocks,” and insisted that we should all be killed. This however had no effect on us, and we continued to move towards a spur, the ascent of which appeared to be less difficult than any other point of the hills. We reached its base at 10 a.m., and had little trouble in taking the cart up. On gaining the top of the first rise, we descended into and crossed a valley, and ascending the opposite side found ourselves on the summit of the range, the surface being much less broken than might have been anticipated, insomuch that we had every hope that our progress amongst the hills would be comparatively easy; but in pushing for the one I wished to ascend, our advance was checked by a deep ravine, and I was obliged to turn towards another hill of nearly equal height on our left. We descended without much difficulty into a contiguous valley, but the ascent on the opposite side was too rough for the cart. We had pressed up it along a rocky watercourse, in which I was obliged to leave Morgan and Topar. Mr. Browne, myself, and Flood, with our horses reached the top of the hill at half-past twelve. Although the position commanded a considerable portion of the horizon there was nothing cheering in the view. Everything below us was dark and dreary, nor was there any indication of a creek to take us on to the north-west. We could see no gum-trees in that direction, nor indeed could we at an elevation of 1600 feet above the plains distinctly make out the covering of the ground below. It appeared to be an elevated table land surrounded by hills, some of which were evidently higher than that on which we stood.
The descent to the westward was still more pre cipitous than the side we had ascended. The pass through which the creek issued from the hills was on our left, Coonbaralba being between us and it, but that hill was perfectly inaccessible; I thought it better therefore to return to sleep at the water where we had breakfasted, with a view to running the creek up into the ranges on the following morning. After taking bearings of the principal objects visible from our station, we rejoined Morgan and descended to the plains. There was a little water in the creek leading from the hill I had at first intended to ascend, to the S.W., which was no doubt a branch of the main creek. On our return we saw that beautiful flower the Clianthus formosa, in splendid blossom on the plains. It was growing amidst barrenness and decay, but its long runners were covered with flowers that gave a crimson tint to the ground.
The principal object I had in view during the excursion I was then employed upon, was if possible to find a proper position to which the party might move; for I foresaw that my absence would be frequent and uncertain, and although my men were very well disposed towards the natives, I was anxious to prevent the chance of collision or misunderstanding. I had now found such a position, for on examining the water-hole I felt satisfied that it might be depended upon for ten days or a fortnight, whilst the grass in its neighbourhood although dry was abundant. Wishing, however, to penetrate the ranges by the gap through which the creek issued from them, I still thought it advisable to prosecute my intended journey up it. Accordingly on the 24th we mounted our horses and rode towards the hills. A little above where we had slept we passed a small junction from the westward, and at 7 miles entered the gap, the Coonbaralba, on the bearing of which we had run across the plains, being on our right. We had already passed several small water-holes, but at the entrance of the gap passed some larger ones in which the water was brackish, and these had the appearance of being permanent. Topar had shewn much indignation at our going on, and constantly remonstrated with us as we were riding along; however, we saw two young native dogs about a third grown, after which he bounded with incredible swiftness, but when they saw him they started off also. It was soon evident, that both were doomed to destruction, his speed being greater that that of the young brutes, for he rapidly gained upon them. The moment he got within reach of the hindmost he threw a stick which he had seized while running, with unerring precision, and striking it full in the ribs stretched it on the ground. As he passed the animal he gave it a blow on the head with another stick, and bounding on after the other was soon out of our sight. All we knew further of the chase, was, that before we reached the spot where his first prize lay, he was returning to us with its companion. As soon as he had secured his prey he sat down to take out their entrails, a point in which the natives are very particular. He was careful in securing the little fat they had about the kidneys, with which he rubbed his body all over, and having finished this operation he filled their insides with grass and secured them with skewers. This done he put them on the cart, and we proceeded up the pass, at the head of which we arrived sooner than I expected. We then found ourselves at the commencement of a large plain. The hills we had ascended the day before trended to the north, and there was a small detached range running perpendicular to them on our right. To the south there were different points, apparently the terminations of parallel ranges, and westward an unbroken line of hills. The creek seemed to trend to the S.W., and in that direction I determined to follow it, but Topar earnestly entreated us not to do so. He was in great consternation; said here was no water, and promised that if we would follow him he would shew us water in which we could swim. On this condition I turned as he desired, and keeping along the western base of the main or front range, took up a course somewhat obtuse to that by which I had crossed the plains of Cawndilla. The productions on the ground were of a salsolaceous kind, although it was so much elevated above the plains, but amongst them there was not any mesembryanthemum. At about three miles we passed a very remarkable and perfectly isolated hill, of about 150 feet in height. It ran longitudinally from south to north for about 350 yards, and was bare of trees or shrubs, with the exception of one or two casuarinas. The basis of this hill was a slaty ferruginous rock, and protruding above the ground along the spine of the hill there was a line of the finest hepatic iron ore I ever saw; it laid in blocks of various sizes, and of many tons weight piled one upon the other, without a particle of earth either on their faces or between them. Nothing indeed could exceed the clean appearance of these huge masses. On ascending this hill and seating myself on the top of one of them to take bearings, I found that the compass deviated 37 degrees from the north point, nor could I place any dependance on the angles I here took.
At about nine miles the main range turned to the N.N.E., and Topar accordingly keeping near its base changed his course, and at five miles more led us into a pass in some respects similar to that by which we had entered the range. It was however less confined and more open. Steep hills, with rocks in slabs protruding from many parts, flanked it to the south, whilst on its northern side perpendicular rocks, varying in height from 15 to 20 feet, over which the hills rose almost as perpendicularly more than 200 feet higher, were to be seen. Close under these was the stony bed of a mountain torrent, but it was also evident that the whole pass, about 160 yards broad, was sometimes covered by floods. Down this gully Topar now led us, and at a short distance, crossing over to its northern side, he stopped at a little green puddle of water that was not more than three inches deep. Its surface was covered with slime and filth, and our horses altogether rejected it. Some natives had recently been at the place, but none were there when we arrived. I was exceedingly provoked at Topar’s treachery, and have always been at a loss to account for it. At the time, both Mr. Browne and myself attributed it to the machinations of our friend Nadbuck; but his alarm at invading the hilly country was too genuine to have been counterfeited. It might have been that Nadbuck and Toonda expected that they would benefit more by our presents and provisions than if we left them for the interior, and therefore tried by every means to deter us from going: they certainly had long conversations with Topar before he left the camp to accompany us. Still I may do injustice to them in this respect. However, whether this was the case or not, we had to suffer from Topar’s misconduct. I turned out of the pass, and stopped a little beyond it, in a more sheltered situation. Here Topar coolly cooked his dogs, and wholly demolished one of them and part of the other. In wandering about the gorge of the glen, Mr. Browne found a native well, but there was no water in it.
Our camp at Cawndilla now bore S.S.E. from us, distant 70 odd miles, and having determined on moving the party, I resolved to make the best of my way back to it. On the following morning, therefore, we again entered the pass, but as it trended too much to the eastward, I crossed a small range and descended at once upon the plains leading to the camp. At about 17 miles from the hills, Topar led us to a broad sheet of water that must have been left by the recent rains. It was still tolerably full, and water may perhaps be found here when there is none in more likely places in the hills. This spot Topar called Wancookaroo; it was unfortunately in a hollow from whence we could take no bearings to fix its precise position.
We halted at sunset on the top of a small eminence, from which the hills Mr. Poole had ascended bore E.N.E., and the hill at the pass N.W. We were suddenly roused from our slumbers a little before daylight by a squall of wind that carried away every light thing about us, hats, caps, etc. all went together, and bushes of atriplex also went bounding along like so many foot-balls. The wind became piercing cold, and all comfort was gone. As morning dawned the wind increased, and as the sun rose it settled into a steady gale. We were here about forty miles from Cawndilla, nor do I remember having ever suffered so severely from cold even in Canada. The wind fairly blew through and through us, and Topar shivered so under it that Morgan gave him a coat to put on. As we seldom put our horses out of a walk, we did not reach the tents until late in the afternoon, but I never was more rejoiced to creep under shelter than on this occasion.
Every thing had gone on well during our absence, and Mr. Poole had kept on the most friendly terms with the natives.
I should have mentioned, that, as we descended from the hills, the quick eye of Topar saw a native at a great distance to our left, and just at the outskirt of a few trees. We should have passed him unperceived, but I requested Mr. Browne to ride up to and communicate with him. The poor fellow had dug a pit, for a Talperos8, big enough to hide himself in, and as he continued to work at it, did not see Mr. Browne approach, who stood mounted right over the hole before he called to him. Dire was the alarm of the poor native when he looked up and saw himself so immediately in contact with such a being as my companion must have appeared to him; but Mr. Browne considerately retired until he had recovered from his astonishment, and Topar, whom I sent to join them, coming up, he soon recovered his composure and approached the cart. As we had prevented the old man from securing his game, I desired Topar to give him the remains of the dog; but this he refused to do. I therefore ordered Morgan to take it from him, and told Topar I would give him an equivalent when we reached the camp. This native did not seem to be aware that the Darling was up, a piece of news that seemed to give him much joy and satisfaction. I kept my promise with Mr. Topar, but he deserved neither my generosity nor consideration.
8. A native animal about the size of a rabbit, but longer in shape.
Mr. Poole informed me that the fluctuations of temperature had been as great at Cawndilla as with us; that the day before, the heat likewise had been excessive, the thermometer having risen to 110 degrees, on the day of our return it was down to 38 degrees.
The natives appeared really glad to see us again, for I believe they had given us up for lost. My old friend shed tears when he embraced us, and Nadbuck, who still remained with Toonda, shewed the most unequivocal signs of joy.
Cawndilla bears about W.S.W. from the junction of the Williorara with the Darling, at a distance of from six to seven miles. We broke up our camp there on the 28th of October 1844, but, however easily Mr. Browne and I had crossed the plains to the north-west, it was a journey that I felt assured would try the bullocks exceedingly. The weather had again changed, and become oppressively hot, so that it behoved me to use every precaution, in thus abandoning the Darling river.
At early dawn Mr. Browne started with Flood, Cowley, and Kirby, in the light cart, to enlarge the wells at Curnapaga, to enable the cattle to drink out of them. Naturally humane and partial to the natives, he had been particularly kind to Toonda, who in his way was I believe really attached to Mr. Browne. This singular man had made up his mind to remain with his tribe, but when he saw the cart, and Mr. Browne’s horse brought up, his feelings evidently overpowered him, and he stood with the most dejected aspect close to the animal, nor could he repress his emotion when Mr. Browne issued from the tents; if our route had been up the Darling, I have no doubt Toonda would still have accompanied us, but all the natives dreaded the country into which we were going, and fully expected that we should perish. It was not therefore surprising that he wavered, more especially as he had been a long time absent from his people, and there might be objections to his leaving them a second time. The real cause, however, was, I think, the overflowing of the Darling, and the usual harvest of fish, and incessant feasting the natives would have in consequence. Their god certainly is their belly, we must not therefore be surprised that Toonda wished to partake of the general abundance that would soon be at the command of his tribe, and probably that his assistance was required. However his heart failed him when he saw Mr. Browne mount his horse to depart, and he expressed his readiness to accompany us to the hills, but no farther. The Boocolo’s son had also volunteered to go so far with his friend the cook: when therefore at 8 a.m. I followed Mr. Browne with the remainder of the party, he and Toonda got on the drays. We took a kind leave of the Boocolo, who put his two hands on my head, and said something which I did not understand. It was however the expression of some kind wish at parting. The cattle got on very well during the early part of the day, and at noon we halted for two hours. After noon our progress was slow, and night closed in upon us, whilst we were yet some distance from the creek. We reached the little sand hill near it, to which we were guided by a large fire Flood had kindled at midnight, for it appeared that the horses had given in, and that Mr. Browne had been obliged to halt there. On leaving Cawndilla I sent Mr. Poole to Scrope’s Range, to verify his bearings, and to enable Mr. Stuart to sketch in the hills, but he had not at this time rejoined me. At early dawn on the 29th, I accompanied Mr. Browne to the wells, leaving Mr. Piesse with the horse-cart and drays. We arrived there at nine, and by twelve, the time when the oxen came up, had dug a large pit under a rock on the left bank of the creek, which filled rapidly with water. The horses however were still in the rear, and I was ultimately obliged to send assistance to them. At 1 p.m. Mr. Poole and Mr. Stuart rejoined us. Two of our kangaroo dogs had followed them from Cawndilla, but one only returned, the other fell exhausted on the plains. Mr. Poole informed me that he had seen, but lost sight of Flood’s signal fire, and had therefore slept higher up on the creek. The animals, but the cart horses in particular, were still very weak when we left Curnapaga, on the 30th, nor is it probable we should have got them to the long water-hole if we had not fortunately stumbled on another little pool of water in a lateral creek about half way. After breakfasting here, we moved leisurely on, and reached our destination at half-past five, p.m. Sullivan shot a beautiful and new hawk (ELANUS SCRIPTUS, Gould), which does not appear to extend farther south than where we here met it, although it wanders over the whole of the north-west interior as far as we went. There were some beautiful plants also growing in the bed of the creek; but we had previously met with so few things that we might here be said to have commenced our collection.
At this water-hole, “Parnari,” we surprised three natives who were strangers. They did not betray any fear, but slept at the tents and left us the following day, as they said to bring more natives to visit us, but we never saw anything more of them. They were hill natives, and shorter in stature than the river tribes.
The day succeeding that of our arrival at Parnari was very peculiar, the thermometer did not rise higher than 81 degrees, but the barometer fell to 28.730 degrees, and the atmosphere was so light that we could hardly breathe. I had hoped that this would have been a prelude to rain, but it came not.
The period from the 1st to the 5th of November was employed in taking bearings from the loftiest points of the range, both to the northward and southward of us; in examining the creek to the south-west, and preparing for a second excursion from the camp.
The rock formation of Curnapaga was of three different kinds. A mixture of lime and clay, a tufaceous deposit, and an apparently recent deposit of soapstone, containing a variety of substances, as alumina, silica, lime, soda, magnesia, and iron. The ranges on either side of the glen were generally varieties of gneiss and granite, in many of which feldspar predominated, coarse ferruginous sandstone, and a siliceous rock with mammillary hematite and hornblende. These, and a great mixture of iron ores, composed the first or eastern line of Stanley’s Barrier Range.
It will be remembered that in tracing up the creek on the occasion of our first excursion from Cawndilla, that Topar had persuaded me, on gaining the head of the glen to go to the north, on the faith of a promise that he would take us to a place where there was an abundance of water, and that in requital he took us to a shallow, slimy pool, the water of which was unfit to drink. Mr. Browne and I now went in the direction we should have gone if we had been uninfluenced by this young cub, and at less than a hundred yards came upon a pretty little clear pool of water, that had been hid from our view by a turn of the creek. What motive Topar could have had in thus deceiving us, and punishing himself, is difficult to say. On our further examination of the creek, however, there was no more water to be found, and from the gravelly and perfectly even nature of its bed, I should think it all runs off as fast as the channel filled. Whilst I was thus employed, Mr. Poole and Mr. Stuart were on the ranges, and both, as well as the men generally, continued in good health; but I was exceedingly anxious about Mr. Browne, who had a low fever on him, and was just then incapable of much fatigue; nevertheless he begged so hard to be permitted to accompany me on my contemplated journey, that I was obliged to yield.
I had been satisfied from the appearance of the Williorara, that it was nothing more than a channel of communication between the lakes Cawndilla and Minandechi and the Darling, as the Rufus and Hawker respectively connect Lakes Victoria and Bonney with the Murray, and I felt assured that as soon as we should leave the former river, our difficulties as regards the supply of water for our cattle would commence, and that although we were going amongst hills of 1500 or 2000 feet elevation, we should still suffer from the want of that indispensable element. Many of my readers, judging from their knowledge of an English climate, and living perhaps under hills of less elevation than those I have mentioned, from which a rippling stream may pass their very door, will hardly understand this; but the mountains of south-east Australia bear no resemblance to the moss-covered mountains of Europe. There that spongy vegetation retains the water to give it out by degrees, but the rain that falls on the Australian hills runs off at once, and hence the terrific floods to which their creeks are subject. In the barren and stony ranges through which I had now to force my way, no spring was to be found. During heavy rains, indeed, the torrents are fierce, and the waters must spread over the plains into which they descend for many miles; but such effects disappear with their cause; a few detached pools only remain, that are fed for a time by under drainage, which soon failing, the thirsty sun completes his work, and leaves that proscribed region — a desert.
Fully satisfied then that the greatest obstacle to the progress of the Expedition would be the want of water, and that it would only be by long and laborious search that we should succeed in gaining the interior, I determined on taking as much as I could on my proposed journey, and with a view to gaining more time for examining the country, I had a tank constructed, which I purposed to send a day or two in advance.
The little pond of which I have spoken at the head of the pass, had near it a beautiful clump of acacias of a species entirely new to us. It was a pretty graceful tree, and threw a deep shade on the ground; but with the exception of these and a few gum-trees the vicinity was clear and open. Our position in the creek on the contrary was close and confined. Heavy gusts of wind were constantly sweeping the valley, and filling the air with sand, and the flies were so numerous and troublesome that they were a preventative to all work. I determined, therefore, before Mr. Browne and I should start for the interior, to remove the camp to the upper part of the glen. On the 4th we struck our tents and again pitched them close to the acacias. Early on the morning of the 5th, I sent Flood with Lewis and Sullivan, having the cart full of water, to preserve a certain course until I should overtake them, being myself detained in camp with Mr. Browne, in consequence of the arrival of several natives from whom we hoped to glean some information; but in this we were disappointed. Toonda had continued with us as far as “Parnari;” but on our moving up higher into the hills, his heart failed him, and he returned to Cawndilla.
At eleven, Mr. Browne and I took leave of Mr. Poole, and pursuing a course of 140 degrees to the west of south, rode on to overtake the cart. At about four miles from the camp we crossed a small ironstone range, from which we saw Flood and his party nearly at the foot of the hill on which I had directed him to move, and at which I intended to cross the ranges if the place was favourable. In this, however, we were disappointed, for the hills were too rugged, although of no great breadth or height. We were consequently obliged to turn to the south, and in going over the rough uneven ground, had the misfortune to burst our tank. I therefore desired Lewis to stop, and gave the horses as much water as they would drink, still leaving a considerable quantity in the tank, of which I hoped we might yet avail ourselves. Although we had found it impracticable to cross the ranges at the proposed point, Mr. Browne and I had managed to scramble up the most elevated part of them. We appeared still to be amidst broken stony hills, from which there was no visible outlet. There was a line of gum-trees, however, in a valley to the southwest of us, as if growing on the side of a creek that would in such case be tributary to the main creek on which our tents were pitched, and we hoped, by running along the base of the hills to the south and turning into the valley, to force our way onwards. At about three and a half miles our anticipations were verified by our arriving opposite to an opening leading northwards into the hills. This proved to be the valley we had noticed. A line of gum-trees marked the course of a small creek, which passing behind a little hill at the entrance of the valley, reappeared on the other side, and then trended to the N.W. Entering the valley and pursuing our way up it, at two miles we crossed another small creek, tributary to the first, and at a mile beyond halted for the night, without having found water. Although there was a little grass on the plains between the camp and the ranges, there was none in the valley in which we stopped. Low bushes of rhagodia and atriplex were alone to be seen, growing on a red, tenacious, yet somewhat sandy soil, whilst the ranges themselves were covered with low brush.
The water had almost all leaked out of the tank when we examined it, so that it was no longer of any service to us. On the morning of the 7th, therefore, I sent Lewis and Sullivan with the cart back to the camp, retaining Flood and Morgan to attend on Mr. Browne and myself.
When we started I directed them to follow up the creek, which did not appear to continue much further, and on arriving at the head of it to cross the range, where it was low, in the hope that they would strike the opposite fall of waters in descending on the other side, whilst I went with Mr. Browne to a hill from which I was anxious to take bearings, although Lewis, who had already been on the top of it, assured me that there was nothing new to be seen. However, we found the view to be extensive enough to enable us to judge better of the character of the country than from any other point on which we had yet been. It was traversed by numerous rocky ridges, that extended both to the north and south beyond the range of vision. Many peaks shewed themselves in the distance, and I was enabled to connect this point with “Coonbaralba,” the hill above the camp. The ridge I had directed Flood to cross was connected with this hill, and appeared to create a division of the waters thereabouts. All however to the north or northwest was as yet confused. There was no visible termination of the ranges in any direction, nor could we see any feature to guide us in our movements.
The rock formation of this hill was a fine grained granite, and was in appearance a round and prominent feature. Although its sides were covered with low dark brush, there was a considerable quantity of oat-grass in its deep and sheltered valleys. We soon struck on Flood’s track after leaving this hill, which, as Lewis had been the first to ascend, I called “Lewis’s Hill;” and riding up the valley along which the men had already passed, at six miles crossed the ridge, which (as we had been led to hope) proved to be the range dividing the eastern and western waters. On our descent from this ridge we proceeded to the north-west, but changed our course to north in following the cart tracks, and at four miles overtook Flood and Morgan on the banks of a creek, the channel of which, and the broad and better grassed valley through which it runs, we ourselves had several times crossed on our way down, and from the first had hoped to find it the main creek on the west side of the ranges.
At the point where we overtook Flood it had increased greatly in size, but we searched its hopeless bed in vain for water, and as it there turned too much to the eastward, for which reason Flood had stopped until we should come up, we left it and crossed the low part of a range to our left; but as we were going too much to the south-west, I turned shortly afterwards into a valley that led me more in the direction in which I was anxious to proceed. The country had been gradually improving from the time we crossed the little dividing range, not so much in soil as in appearance, and in the quality of its herbage. There was a good deal of grass in the valleys, and up the sides of the hills, which were clear and open on the slopes but stony on their summits. After proceeding about two and a half miles, we got into a scrubby part of the hills, through which we found it difficult to push our way, the scrub being eucalyptus dumosa, an unusual tree to find in those hills. After forcing through the scrub for about half a mile, we were suddenly stopped by a succession of precipitous sandstone gullies, and were turned to the eastward of north down a valley the fall of which was to that point. This valley led us to that in which we had rejoined Flood, but lower down; in crossing it we again struck on the creek we had then left, much increased in size, and with a row of gum-trees on either side of it, but its even broad bed composed of the cleanest gravel and sand, precluded the hope of our finding water. At about a mile, however, it entered a narrow defile in the range, and the hills closed rapidly in upon it. Pursuing our way down the defile it gradually narrowed, the bed of the creek occupied its whole breadth, and the rocks rose perpendicularly on either side. We searched this place for water with the utmost care and anxiety, and I was at length fortunate enough to discover a small clear basin not a yard in circumference, under a rock on the left side of the glen. Suspecting that this was supplied by surface drainage, we enlarged the pool, and obtained from it an abundance of the most delicious water we had tasted during our wanderings. Mr. Browne will I am sure bear the Rocky Glen in his most grateful remembrance. Relieved from further anxiety with regard to our animals, he hastened with me to ascend one of the hills that towered above us to the height of 600 feet, before the sun should set, but this was no trifling task, as the ascent was exceedingly steep. The view from the summit of this hill presented the same broken country to our scrutiny which I have before described, at every point excepting to the westward, in which direction the ranges appeared to cease at about six miles, and the distant horizon from S.W. to N.W. presented an unbroken level. The dark and deep ravine through which the creek ran was visible below us, and apparently broke through the ranges at about four miles to the W.N.W. but we could not see any water in its bed. It was sufficiently cheering to us however to know that we were near the termination of the ranges to the westward, and that the country we should next traverse was of open appearance.
I had hoped from what we saw of it from the top of the hill above us, on the previous afternoon, that we should have had but little difficulty in following down the creek, but in this we were disappointed.
We started at eight to pursue our journey, and kept for some time in its bed. The rock formation near and at our camp was trap, but at about a mile below it changed to a coarse grey granite, huge blocks of which, traversed by quartz, were scattered about. The defile had opened out a little below where we had slept, but it soon again narrowed, and the hills closed in upon it nearer than before. The bed of the creek at the same time became rocky, and blocked up with immense fragments of granite. We passed two or three pools of water, one of which was of tolerable size, and near it there were the remains of a large encampment of natives. Near to it also there was a well, a sure sign that however deep the water-holes in the glen might now be, there are times when they are destitute of any. There can be no doubt, indeed, but that we owed our present supply of water both at this place and at the Coonbaralba pass, to the rains that fell in the hills during the week we remained at Williorara.
Soon after passing the native camp, our further progress was completely stopped by large blocks of granite, which, resting on each other, prevented the possibility of making a passage for the cart or even of advancing on horseback. In this predicament I sent Flood to climb one of the hills to our left, to see if there was a leading spur by which we could descend to the plains; but on his return to us he said that the country was wholly impracticable, but that he thought we should see more of it from a hill he had noticed about three miles to the north-east. We accordingly left Morgan with the horses and walked to it. We reached the summit after a fatiguing walk of an hour, but neither were we repaid for our trouble, nor was there anything in the view to lead us to hope for any change for the better. The character of the country had completely changed, and in barrenness it far exceeded that through which we had already passed. The line of hills extended from S.E. by S. to the opposite point of the compass, and formed a steep wall to shut out the level country below them.
One might have imagined that an ocean washed their base, and I would that it really had been so, but a very different hue spread between them and the distant horizon than the deep blue of the sea. The nearer plains appeared of a lighter shade than the rest of the landscape, but there were patches of trees or shrubs upon them, which in the distance were blended together in universal scrub. A hill, which I had at first sight taken to be Mount Lyell of Sir Thomas Mitchell, bore 7 degrees to the east of north, distant 18 miles, but as our observations placed us in 31 degrees 32 minutes 0 seconds S. only, it could not have been that hill. To the south and east our view was limited, as the distant horizon was hid from our sight by higher ground near us, but there was a confused succession of hills and valleys in those directions, the sides of both being covered with low brush and huge masses of granite, and a dark brown sombre hue pervaded the whole scene. We could not trace the windings of the creek, but thought we saw gumtrees in the plains below us, to the N.E., indicating the course of a creek over them. Some of the same trees were also visible to our left (looking-westward), and the ranges appeared less precipitous and lower in the same direction. We cast our eyes therefore to that point to break through them, and returned to Morgan with at least the hope of success. In the view I had just then been contemplating, however, I saw all realized of what I had imagined of the interior, and felt assured that I had a work of extreme difficulty before me in the task of penetrating towards the centre.
On our return to the cart, I determined on again taking up my quarters at the little rocky water-hole, and sending Mr. Browne and Flood to the westward to find a practicable descent to the plains, before I again moved from the glen.
In the evening, Mr. Browne went with Flood down the creek, but the road was perfectly impracticable even for led horses, so that the only hope of progressing rested on the success that might attend his endeavours on the following day. He accordingly started with Flood at an early hour, proposing to return by the way of the creek, if he should succeed in finding a descent to the plains. I and Morgan remained in the glen. My observations placed this well-remembered spot in lat. 31 degrees 32 minutes 17 seconds S.
I had plenty of occupation during my officer’s absence, whilst Morgan was engaged looking over the harness and filling up the water-casks. At four, Mr. Browne returned, having succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectations, not only in finding an uninterrupted descent to the plains, but an abundance of water in the creek at the gorge of the glen; yet he was of opinion that we should not find any water below that point, as the creek there had a broad and even bed of sand and gravel. He said that the aspect of the plains was better than he had expected to find them, and he distinctly saw from the ranges, as he descended, the hills of whose existence we had had some doubt the day before, bearing N.N.W. Thus, then, fortune once more befriended our movements, by enabling us to push on another day in advance, without being dependent on our own resources. Morgan was too glad to empty the casks again, and to lighten the cart-load, with which, on the morning of the 9th, we left the glen, and gradually turned to the westward, until the hill we had walked to on the 7th, and which bore west by north from the place where we had left Morgan with the cart, now bore W.N.W. Pushing up a narrow valley, we found little difficulty in our way, and leaving the above hill somewhat to our right, we gradually descended by a long and leading spur to the Cis-Darling interior.
We could now look back on the ranges from the depressed region into which we had fallen, nor could the eye follow their outline and glance over the apparently boundless plain beyond them, without feeling a conviction that they had once looked over the waters of the ocean as they then overlooked a sea of scrub.
As soon as we had got well into the plains, we pursued a course of half a point to the eastward of north, nearly parallel to the ranges, until we reached the glen from which the creek issues, and formed our little camp on its banks. The water however was not good, so that we were obliged to send for some from a pool a little above us. In the bed of this creek we found beautiful specimens of Solani, and a few new plants.
I halted at this place in consequence of the resolution I had taken to push into the interior on the following morning. I was therefore anxious that the horses should start as fresh as possible, as we could not say where we should again find water.
The direction of the hills was nearly north and south, extending at either hand to a distance beyond the range of vision or telescope. Our observations here placed us in latitude 31 degrees 23 minutes 20 seconds S., so that we were still nearly half a degree to the south of Mount Lyell, and a degree to the south of Mount Serle. I had little prospect of success, however, in pursuing a direct westerly course, as it would have led me into the visible scrub there; on the other hand I did not wish to move exactly parallel to the ranges, but, in endeavouring to gain a knowledge of the more remote interior, to keep such a course as would not take me too far from the hills in the event of my being obliged to fall back upon them. We started on the 11th, therefore, on a N.N.W. course, and on the bearing of the low hills we had seen to the westward, and which were now distinctly visible. For the first five miles we travelled over firm and open plains of clay and sand, similar to the soil of the plains of the Murray. At length the ground became covered with fragments of quartz rock, ironstone, and granite. It appeared as if M’Adam had emptied every stone he ever broke to be strewed over this metalled region. The edges of the stones were not, however, rounded by attrition, or mixed together, but laid on the plains in distinct patches, as if large masses of the different rocks had been placed at certain distances from each other and then shivered into pieces. The plains were in themselves of undulating surface, and appeared to extend to some low elevations on our left, connecting them with the main range as outer features; although in the distance they only shewed as a small and isolated line of hills detached about eleven miles from the principal groups, from which we were gradually increasing our distance. This outer feature prevented our seeing the north-west horizon until we gained an elevated part of it, whence it appeared that we should soon have to descend to lower ground than that on which we had been travelling. There was a small eminence that just shewed itself above the horizon to the N.N.W., and was directly in our course, enabling us to keep up our bearings with the loftier and still visible peaks on the ranges. We found the lower ground much less stony and more even than the higher ground, and our horses got well over it. At 4 p.m. we observed a line of gum-trees before us, evidently marking the line of a creek, the upper branch of which we had already noticed as issuing from a deep recess in the range. At the distance we were from the hills, we had little hope of finding water; on approaching it, however, we alarmed some cockatoos and other birds, and observed the recent tracks of emus in the bed of the creek. Flood, who had ridden a-head, went up it in search for water. Mr. Browne and I went downwards, and from appearances had great hopes that at a particular spot we should succeed by digging, more especially as on scraping away a little of the surface gravel with our hands, there were sufficient indications to induce us to set Morgan to work with a spade, who in less than an hour dug a hole from which we were enabled to supply both our own wants and those of our animals; and as there was good grass in the creek, we tethered them out in comfort. This discovery was the more fortunate, as Flood returned unsuccessful from his search.
The gum-trees on this creek were of considerable size; and many of the shrubs we had found in the creek, at the glen, were in beautiful flower in its broad and gravelly bed, along which the Clyanthus was running with its magnificent blossoms; a situation where I certainly did not expect to find that splendid creeper growing. It was exceedingly curious to observe the instinct which brought the smaller birds to our well. Even whilst Morgan was digging, and Mr. Browne and I sitting close to him, some Diamond birds (Amandina) were bold enough to perch on his spade; we had, in the course of the day, whilst passing over the little stony range, been attracted to a low Banksia, by seeing a number of nests of these little birds in its branches, and of which there were no less than fourteen. In some of them were eggs, and in others young birds; so that it appeared they lived in communities, or congregated together to breed. But we had numberless opportunities of observing the habits of this interesting little bird, whose note cheered us for months, and was ever the forerunner of good, as indicating the existence of water.
We placed the cart under a gum-tree, in which the cockatoos we had alarmed when descending into the creek had a nest. These noisy birds (Plyctolophus Leadbeaterii) kept incessantly screeching to their young, which answered them in notes that resembled the croaking of frogs, more than anything else.
On the 11th we left the creek, well satisfied with our night’s occupation of it, as also, I believe, to the still greater satisfaction of our noisy friends. For about two and a half or three miles there was every appearance of an improving country It was open, and in many places well covered with grass; and although at three miles it fell off a little, still the aspect on the northern side of the creek was, to a considerable distance, preferable to that on the south side. At 11 a.m. we gained the crest of the little stony hill we had seen the day before to the N.N.W., and from it were enabled not only to take back bearings, but to carry others forward. We were fast losing sight of the hills, whose loftier summits alone were visible, yet we now saw fresh peaks to the north, which satisfied me that they continued in that direction far beyond the most distant one we had seen. From this circumstance I was led to hope that we might fall on another creek, and so gradually, but surely, work our way to the N.W.
On descending from the little hill, however, we traversed an inferior country, and at two miles saw a few scattered Pine-trees. Shortly afterwards, on breaking through a low scrub, we crossed a ridge of sand, on which numerous Pine-trees were growing. These ridges then occurred in rapid succession, separated by narrow flats only; the soil being of a bright red clay covered with Rhagodiae, and having bare patches on them. The draught over this kind of country became a serious hindrance to our movements, as it was very heavy, and the day excessively hot, the horses in the team suffered much. I therefore desired Morgan to halt, and, with Mr. Browne, rode forward in the hope of finding water, for he had shot a new and beautiful pigeon, on the bill of which some moist clay was adhering; wherefore we concluded that he had just been drinking at some shallow, but still unexhausted, puddle of water near us: we were, however unsuccessful in our search; but crossed pine ridge after pine ridge, until at length I thought it better to turn back to the cart, and, as we had already travelled some 25 miles, to halt until the morning; more especially as there was no deficiency of grass on the sand ridges, and I did not apprehend that our horses would suffer much from the want of water.
Whatever idea I might have had of the character of the country into which we had penetrated, I certainly was not prepared for any so singular as that we encountered. The sand ridges, some partially, some thickly, covered with Pine-trees, were from thirty to fifty feet high, and about eighty yards at their base, running nearly longitudinally from north to south. They were generally well covered with grass, which appeared to have been the produce of recent rains; and several very beautiful leguminous plants were also growing on them. I did not imagine that these ridges would continue much longer, and I therefore determined, the following morning to push on. Our position was in lat. 30 degrees 40 minutes S. and in longitude 140 degrees 51 minutes E. nearly.
On the morning of the 12th we commenced our day’s journey on a N.W. course, as I had proposed to Mr. Browne. Flood had been about half a mile to the eastward, in the hope of finding water before we rose, but was disappointed; the horses did not, however, appear to have suffered from the want of it during the night. On starting I requested Mr. Browne to make a circuit to the N.E. for the same purpose, as we had observed many birds fly past us in that direction; and I sent Flood to the westward, but both returned unsuccessful. Nevertheless, although we could not find any water, the country improved.
The soil was still clay and sand, but we crossed some very fine flats, and only wanted water to enjoy comparative luxury. Both the flats and the ridges were well clothed with grass, and the former had box-trees and hakeas scattered over them; but these favourable indications soon ceased. The pine ridges closed upon each other once more, and the flats became covered with salsolaceous plants. The day was exceedingly hot, and still more oppressive in the brushes, so that the horses began to flag. At 2 p.m. no favourable change had taken place. Our view was limited to the succeeding sand hill; nor, by ascending the highest trees, could we see any elevated land at that hour; therefore I stopped, as the cart got on so slowly, and as the horses would now, under any circumstances, be three days without water, I determined on retracing my steps to the creek in which we had dug the well. I directed Mr. Browne, with Flood, however, to push on, till sunset, in the hope that he might see a change. At sunset I commenced my retreat, feeling satisfied that I had no hope of success in finding water so far from the hills. Turning back at so late an hour in the afternoon, it was past midnight when we reached the sand ridge from which we had started in the morning; where we again stopped until dawn, when proceeding onwards, and passing a shallow puddle of surface water, that was so thick with mud and animalculae as to be unfit to drink, we gained the creek at half-past 4 p.m. Mr. Browne and Flood joined us some little time after sunset, having ridden about 18 miles beyond the point at which we had parted, but had not noticed any change. The sandy ridges, Mr. Browne informed me, continued as far as he went; and, to all appearance, for miles beyond. The day we returned to the creek was one of most overpowering heat, the thermometer at noon being 117 degrees in the shade. I had promised to wait for Mr. Browne at the shallow puddle, but the sun’s rays fell with such intense effect on so exposed a spot that I was obliged to seek shelter at the creek. It blew furiously during the night of the 13th, in heated gusts from the north-east, and on the morning of the 14th the gale continued with unabated violence, and eventually became a hot wind. We were, therefore, unable to stir. The flies being in such myriads around us, so that we could do nothing. It is, indeed, impossible for me to describe the intolerable plague they were during the whole of that day from early dawn to sunset.
On the night of the 14th it rained a little. About 3 a.m. the wind blew round to the north-west, and at dawn we had a smart shower which cooled the air, reducing the temperature to something bearable. The sun rose amidst heavy clouds, by which his fiery beams were intercepted in their passage to the earth’s surface. Before we quitted our ground I sent Flood up the creek, to trace it into the hills, an intention I was myself obliged to forego, being anxious to remain with the cart. The distance between the two creeks is about 26 miles, but, as I have already described the intervening country, it may not be necessary to notice it further. I was unable to take many back bearings, as the higher portions of the ranges were enveloped in mist. We reached the glen at half-past 5 p.m., and took up our old berth just at the gorge, preparatory to ascending the hills on the following day. Flood had already arrived there, and informed me that he had not followed the creek to where it issued from the ranges, but had approached very nearly, and could see the point from which it broke through them. That he had not found any surface water, but had tried the ground in many places, and always found water at two or three inches depth, and that where the water was the most abundant the feed was also the most plentiful.
As I had anticipated, we had heavy rain all night, and in the morning continual flying thunder-storms. We started, however, at eight, and, leaving the cart to push on for the rocky gully, Mr. Browne and I proceeded to ascend some of the higher peaks, which we had not had time to do in our advance. We accordingly turned into a narrow valley, in the middle of which was the bed of a rocky watercourse, and on either side of it were large clusters of the Clematis in full flower, that, mixed with low bushes of Jasmine, sent forth a most delicious perfume. After winding up this valley for about a mile and a half, we were stopped by a wall of rock right across it, and obliged to turn back. We were, however, more fortunate in our next attempt, and succeeded in gaining the summit of one of the loftiest hills on the range, on the very top of which we found large boulders of rocks, imbedded in the soil. They varied in size, from a foot in diameter to less, and were rounded by attrition, just like the rounded stones in the bed of a river, or on the sea shore. The hill itself was of schistose formation, the boulders of different kinds of rocks, and very sparingly scattered through the soil. We had scarcely reached the summit of this hill, when it was enveloped in thick clouds, from which the lightning flashed, and the thunder pealed close to us, and crack after crack reverberated along the valleys. It soon passed away, however, and left us well drenched, but the western horizon was still black with clouds. From this hill we proceeded to another, which at first sight I had thought was of volcanic origin, but proved to be like the first, of schistose formation, and was covered with low scrub. About 2 p.m. we had finished our work, and the sun shone out. On looking back towards the plains we now saw them flashing in the light of waters, and I regretted that we had been forced to retreat before the rains set in. However, seeing that the country was now in a fitter state to travel over, I determined on returning with all speed, to give Mr. Poole an opportunity to pass to the point where I had been, whilst I should move the party over the hills. We struck across the ranges, direct for the rocky gully, from the last hill we ascended, and rode past some very romantic scenery, but I had not time to make any sketch of it. Flood and Morgan had already arrived in the glen, and tethered out the horses in some long grass. At this place we were about 38 miles distant from the camp; but, as the cart could not travel so far in one day, I directed the men to bring it up, and on the morning of the 18th left them for the camp, with Mr. Browne, where we arrived at sunset. But little rain had fallen during the day, still it was easy to foretell that it had not ceased. The wind, for the last three days, had been blowing from the N.W., but on the 19th flew round to the S.E., and although no rain fell during the day, heavy clouds surrounded us. Considering, however, the rapidity of evaporation in such a climate, and the certainty that the rains would be followed by extreme heat, I was anxious that Mr. Poole should proceed on his journey without delay, he accordingly prepared to leave us on the 20th.
The reader will have inferred, from what I have said on the subject, that my object at this particular time was to attain the meridian of Mount Arden, as soon as circumstances should enable me. Had not this intention influenced me, on my recent journey, I should have kept nearer to the ranges; but I hoped, by taking a westerly course, that I should strike the N.E. angle of Lake Torrens, or find that I had altogether cleared it; added to this Mr. Eyre had informed me that he could not see the northern shore of that lake; I therefore thought that it might be connected with some more central body of water, the early discovery of which, in my progress to the N.W., would facilitate my future operations. This was a point whereon I was most anxious to obtain information; but, as my horses were knocked up, it appeared to me, that Mr. Poole, with fresh horses, would find no difficulty in gaining a distance sufficiently great to enable me to act on the knowledge he might acquire of the distant interior.
In my instructions to that officer therefore, I directed him to pursue a general N.W. course, as the one most likely to determine the questions on the several points to which I called his attention. “Should you,” I said, “reach the shores of Lake Torrens, or any body of water of unknown extent, you will endeavour to gain every information on that head; but if you should not strike any basin of either description, you will do your uttermost to ascertain if a westerly course is open to us, after you shall have reached lat. 30 degrees to enable me to gain the 138 degrees meridian, as soon as circumstances will permit. Should the supply of water which the recent rains will ensure for a time, be likely to fail, or if the rains should not have extended so far as you would desire to go, and your advance be thus rendered hazardous, it will be discretionary with you to return direct to the camp, or turn to the eastward, and proceed along the western flanks of the ranges, but you are on no account to endanger either yourself or party by an attempt to push into the interior, to a distance beyond that which prudence might reasonably justify. Should you return along the ranges you will examine any creek or water-course you may intersect, and bring me the fullest information as to the supply of water and feed. Should you, on the other hand, discover any very extensive sheet of water, you will, after ascertaining its extent and direction, as far as your means will allow, return immediately to the camp; as, in the event of our requiring the boat, many necessary preparations will have to be made, that will take a considerable length of time to complete, during which the examination of the country to the north can be carried on with advantage.
“You will select the men you would wish to accompany you, and will provide as well for your comfort as safety; for although these regions do not seem to be inhabited at the present moment, at least in that part from whence I have just returned, it will be necessary for you to be always on your guard, even although no apparent danger may be near.”
Mr. Browne had greatly recovered from his late indisposition, and as Mr. Poole intimated to me that he had expressed his willingness to accompany him, I had several reasons for giving my assent to this arrangement.
On the morning of the 20th it still continued to rain, insomuch that I was anxious Mr. Poole should postpone his departure, but clearing up at noon, he left me and proceeded on his journey. In the evening, however, we had heavy and violent showers; all night it poured in torrents with thunder and lightning, but the morning of the 21st was clear and fine. A vast quantity of rain however had fallen. The creek was overflowing its banks, and the ground in such a state that it would have been impossible to have moved the drays. The temperature was exceedingly cold, although the thermometer did not fall below 66 degrees at half-past 2 p.m. the hottest part of the day. Such a temperature I am aware would be considered agreeable in England, but in a climate like that of Australia, where the changes are so sudden, they are more severely felt. Only a few days before the thermometer had ranged from 108 degrees to 117 degrees in the shade, thus at once causing a difference of 42 degrees and 51 degrees, and I am free to say that it was by no means agreeable. On the 22nd I commenced my advance over the ranges, although the ground was hardly then in a condition to bear the weight of the drays. We were indeed obliged to keep on the banks of the creek as they were higher and firmer than the plains, but after all we only made seven miles and halted, I had almost said without water, for notwithstanding the recent rains, there was not a drop in the bed of the creek, nor could we get any other than a scanty supply by digging; Jones, however, one of the bullock drivers, found a shallow pool upon the plains to which the cattle were driven.
On the way I ascended a small hill composed of mica slate, and on its summit found two or three specimens of tourmaline. The boiling point of water on this hill was 210 degrees, the thermometer stood at 70 degrees.
On the 25th we crossed the little dividing range connected with Lewis’s Hill, which last I again ascended to verify my bearings, as we had erected three pyramids on the Coonbaralla range that were visible from it. I also availed myself of the slow progress of the drays, to ascend a hill at some little distance from our line, which was considerably higher than any of those near it, and was amply rewarded for my trouble by the extensive view it afforded.
Our specimens and collections were at this period exceedingly limited, nor did there appear to be any immediate chance of increasing them. The most numerous of the feathered race were the owls, (Strix flameus.) These birds flew about in broad daylight, and kept the camp awake all night by their screeching, it being at that time the breeding season. The young birds generally sat on a branch near the hole in which they had been hatched, and set up a most discordant noise about every quarter of an hour, when the old ones returned to them with food.
On trying the thermometers, one on Lewis’s Hill, and the other on the Black Hill, I found that they boiled at 209 degrees and 208 degrees respectively.
On the 26th Jones was unfortunate enough to snap the pole of his dray, and I was consequently detained on the 27th repairing it. I was the more vexed at the accident, being anxious to push over the ranges and gain the plains, in order to prevent Mr. Poole the necessity of re-ascending them. I felt satisfied that I should find a sufficiency both of water and feed at the gorge of the Rocky Glen, to enable me to rest until more thorough knowledge of the country could be gained, whilst by encamping at that place I should save Mr. Poole a journey of 63 miles.
As we descended from the ranges I observed that all the water I had seen glittering on the plains had disappeared; I found too that the larger water-hole in the glen had rather fallen than increased during the rains. The fact however was, that the under-drainage had not yet reached the lower part of the gully.
We were now about 24 miles from the second creek Mr. Browne and I had crossed on our recent excursion, and from Flood’s examination of it afterwards, I felt assured that unless a party was sent forward to dig a large hole for the cattle I could not prudently advance any farther for the present; but being anxious to push on, and hoping that the late rains had increased the supply of water in the creek, I sent Flood on the 28th with two of the men (Joseph and Sullivan) to dig a tank in the most favourable spot he could select, and followed him with the drays on the 29th. Wishing however to examine the country a little to the westward, I desired the men to keep on the plains about two miles from the foot of the ranges, until they should strike the creek or Flood should join them, and did not reach the encampment before eight o’clock.
Flood then told me that he had been to the place where he had before found most surface water; but that, notwithstanding the rains, it was all gone. He had tried the creek downwards, and had at length sunk a tank opposite to a little gully, thinking that it might influence the drainage. The tank was quite full, and continued so for two or three days after, when, without any great call upon it from the cattle, it sensibly diminished, and at length dried up, and we should have been obliged to fall back, if in tracing up the little gully we had not found a pond that enabled us to keep our ground. It often happened that we thus procured water in detached localities when there was not a drop in the main channels of the creeks. At this place the boiling point of the thermometer was 212 degrees; thus bringing us again pretty nearly on a level with the ocean, although we were at the time distant from it more than 480 miles.
At this period we had frequent heavy winds, with a heated temperature: yet our animals, if I except the dogs, did not suffer much. The sheep, it is true, would sometimes refuse to stir, and assemble in the shade, when on the march, whilst the dogs took shelter in wambut holes, and poking their heads out, would bark at their charge to very little purpose. It was evident, indeed, that the heat was fast increasing, and what we had already experienced was only an earnest of that which was to follow.
Mr. Poole had now been absent thirteen days, and I began to be anxious for his return. Our march to the second creek had again shortened his homeward journey 70 miles, and as I felt assured he would cross the creek at the point where we had dug the well, I stuck a pole up in it, with instructions, and on the 2nd December he rode into the camp with Mr. Browne, both much fatigued, as well as their horses. I had been engaged the greater part of the day fixing the points for another base line, as I was fearful that the angles of our first were too acute, and found that the party had got back on my return to the camp.
Mr. Poole informed me that as soon as the weather cleared, after leaving me on the range, he had pushed on. That on the 24th he left my cart tracks as they turned to the N.W., and continued the N.N.W. course as I had directed. On that day he encamped early at a good water-hole, as the horses had travelled fast; the country thereabouts had become more open, but water was exceedingly scarce. On this day he ascended a small sandstone hill, from which some high peaks on the range bore S.S.E.
On the 26th he had not advanced 10 miles, when the pack-horse fell exhausted by heat. Mr. Poole then consulted with Mr. Browne, and it was thought better by both to travel at night, and they accordingly did so. The country by moonlight appeared more open, and the water seemed to be in greater abundance, as if much more rain had fallen thereabouts than to the south. They continued a N.N.W. course until daylight, when they halted, and Mr. Browne ascended a sand hill, from whence he saw peaks on the range bearing to the north of east, and the Mount Serle range, bearing due west, distant 50 miles. The latter circumstance induced Mr. Poole, when he again resumed his journey, to change his course to west, in the hope that as he had passed the 30th parallel he should find Lake Torrens between himself and the ranges. Accordingly, on starting at 4 p.m. they went on that course, and halted at dawn on a swampy flat, under a gum-tree. Mr. Poole subsequently ascertained that the swamp was the head of a little creek falling into the Sandy Lake, where he afterwards terminated his journey.
The country had now assumed a very barren appearance. At sunrise Mr. Poole and Mr. Browne ascended another sand hill, from whence they again saw the hills to the westward, seemingly very high and steep; but there was no sign of an intermediate basin, the country towards the ranges bearing a most sterile aspect. Here Mr. Browne saw a new pigeon, which had a very singular flight.
On the afternoon of the 28th the party moved on a course of 10 degrees to the south of west, down a leading valley, the country becoming still more barren, the sand ridges quite bare, and only an occasional hakea on the flats. At eight miles on the above course, and from the top of a sandy ridge at the distance of two miles, they saw a sheet of water about a mile and a half in length, in a sandy bed extending to the north, without any visible termination. There was another sheet of water to the south of this in the same kind of bed, connected with the larger one by a dry channel. It appeared from the lay of the country that these sheets of water were formed by drainage from the barren ranges from which Mr. Poole calculated he was 15 to 18 miles distant. The lakes were about three miles in length, taking the two together, the water was slightly brackish, and in Mr. Poole’s opinion they might during the summer season be dry. He again ascended the sandy ridge and observed that he was immediately opposite to three remarkable peaks, similar to those marked down by Mr. Eyre. The party then turned homewards, and encamped on the creek at the head of which they had slept the night before, where they could hardly rest for the swarms of mosquitos. Pursuing their journey towards the camp on the following morning, keeping some few miles to the westward of their former line, they passed through a similar country. At noon, on the 1st of December, they were still amongst the pine ridges; after noon the country began to improve, and they rode across large plains well grassed and covered with acacia trees of fine growth, but totally destitute of water; they were in consequence obliged to tether the horses all night. They reached the creek in which I had erected the pole, early on the following morning, and there found the paper of instructions informing them of the removal of the camp to within a mile of where they then were.
It was evident from the result of this excursion, and from the high northerly point Mr. Poole had gained, that he had either struck the lower part of the basin of Lake Torrens or some similar feature. It was at the same time, however, clear that the country was not favourable for any attempt to penetrate, since there was no surface water. I felt indeed that it would be imprudent to venture with heavily loaded drays into such a country; but although I found a westerly course as yet closed upon me, I still hoped that we should find larger waters in the north-west interior, from the fact of the immense number of bitterns, cranes, and other aquatic birds, the party flushed in the neighbourhood of the lakes. Whence could these birds (more numerous at this point than we ever afterwards saw them) have come from? To what quarter do they go? They do not frequent the Murray or the Darling in such numbers, neither do they frequent the southern portion of the coast. If then they are not to be found in those localities, what waters do they inhabit in the interior?
On the 4th I sent Flood to the north in search of water, directing him to keep at a certain distance from the ranges, with especial instructions not to proceed beyond 60 or 70 miles, but in the event of his finding water within that distance to return immediately to the camp. During his absence I was abundantly occupied, and anxious that Mr. Poole and Mr. Browne should have a little rest after their late journey. Both those gentlemen were however too interested in the service in which they were engaged to remain idle when they could be usefully employed. Mr. Poole went out with me on the 5th and 6th to assist in the measurement of the new base line I had deemed it prudent to run, for the purpose, as I have said, of correcting any previous error. Mr. Piesse examined the pork, and according to my instructions made out a list of the stores on hand, when I found it necessary to make a reduction in the allowance of tea and sugar, in consequence of the loss of weight. The former from 4 oz. to 3 oz. per week, the latter from 2 lb. to 1 1/2 lb.
The heat had now become excessive, the thermometer seldom falling under 96 degrees, and rising to 112 degrees and 125 degrees in the shade. The surface of the ground never cooled, and it was with difficulty that we retained any stones in our hands that had been exposed to the sun; still we had not as yet experienced a hot wind. The existing heat was caused by its radiation from the earth’s surface and the intensity of the solar rays.
The horses Mr. Poole had out with him, had suffered a good deal, and considering that if the country should continue as heretofore, and we should be obliged to hunt incessantly for water, we should require relays, I thought it advisable to do away with the horse-team, as the consumption of provisions now enabled me to divide the load the horses had drawn equally amongst the bullocks. We finished the base line on the 7th, and I was glad to find that it was of sufficient length to ensure a favourable result, it being rather more than 10 miles.
All drainage in the creek had now ceased, and we were therefore dependent on the water in the gully, which, although invaluable as a present supply, would soon have been exhausted, where our total consumption could not have been less than from 1000 to 1100 gallons a day, for the horses and bullocks drank a fearful quantity. Had Flood been unsuccessful in the object of his journey, therefore, I should in the course of a few days have been obliged to fall back, but he returned on the 7th, bringing news that he had found a beautiful little creek, in which there were long deep water-holes shaded by gum-trees, with an abundance of grass in its neighbourhood. This creek he said was about 40 miles in advance, but there was no water between us and it. He also confirmed an impression I had had on my mind from our first crossing the Barrier Range, that it would not continue to any great distance northwards; Flood said that from what he could observe the hills appeared to be gradually declining, as if they would soon terminate. He saw three native women at the creek, but did not approach them, thinking it better not to excite their alarm. These were the first natives we had seen on the western side of the hills.
On the 9th we again moved forward, on a course a little to the eastward of north, over the barren, stony, and undulating ground that lies between the main and outer ranges. The discovery of this creek by Flood, so much finer than any we had hitherto crossed, led me to hope that if the mountains should cease I might fall in with other ranges beyond them coming from the north-east, as forming the northwest slope of the valley of the Darling. I was anxious, therefore, to examine the ranges as we advanced, and leaving the party in Mr. Poole’s charge, rode away to ascend some of the hills and to take bearings from them to some particular peaks, the bearing of which had already been taken from different elevations; but from no hill to which I went could a view of the south-west horizon be obtained, so much lower had the hills become, and from their general aspect I was fully satisfied that we should soon arrive at their termination. From the last point I ascended, as from others, there was a large mountain bearing N.E. by N. from me, distant 50 or 60 miles, which I rightly judged to be Mount Lyell. It was a bold, round hill, without any particular feature, but evidently the loftiest connected with the Barrier Range. Mount Babbage bore N. by E. and was only just visible above the dark scrubs between me and it. The teams were keeping rather nearer the hills than Flood had gone, and were moving directly for a line of trees apparently marking the course of a creek. On my way to overtake the party, I met Mr. Browne and Flood on the plains, with whom I rode back. As we crossed these plains we flushed numerous pigeons — a pair, indeed, from under almost every bush of rhagodia that we passed. This bird was similar to one Mr. Browne had shot in the pine forest, and this was clearly the breeding season; there were no young birds, and in most of the nests only one egg. We should not, however, have encumbered ourselves with any of the young at that time, but looked to a later period for the chance of being able to take some of that beautiful description of pigeon home with us. The old birds rose like grouse, and would afford splendid shooting if found in such a situation at any other period than that of incubation; at other times however, as I shall have to inform the reader, they congregate in vast flocks, and are migratory.
Fortunately, at that part of the creek where the party struck it, there was a small pool of water, at which we gladly halted for the night, having travelled about 28 miles; our journey to Flood’s Creek on the following day was comparatively short. Flood had not at all exaggerated his account of this creek, which, as an encouragement, I named after him. It was certainly a most desirable spot to us at that time; with plenty of water, it had an abundance of feed along its banks; but our tents were pitched on the rough stony ground flanking it, under cover of some small rocky hills. To the north-west there was a very pretty detached range, and westward large flooded flats, through which the creek runs, and where there was also an abundance of feed for the stock.
Although, as I have observed, the heat was now very great, the cereal grasses had not yet ripened their seed, and several kinds had not even developed the flower. Everything in the neighbourhood of the creek looked fresh, vigorous, and green, and on its banks (not, I would observe, on the plains, because on them there was a grass peculiar to such localities) the animals were up to their knees in luxuriant vegetation. We there found a native wheat, a beautiful oat, and a rye, as well as a variety of grasses; and in hollows on the plains a blue or purple vetch not unusual on the sand ridges, of which the cattle were very fond. In crossing the stony plains to this creek we picked up a number of round balls, of all sizes, from that of a marble to that of a cannon ball; they were perfect spheres, and hollow like shells, being formed of clay and sand cemented by oxide of iron. Some of these singular balls were in clusters like grape-shot, others had rings round them like Saturn’s ring; and as I have observed, the plains were covered with them in places. There can be no doubt, I think, but that they were formed by the action of water, and that constant rolling, when they were in a softer state, gave them their present form.
The day succeeding that of our arrival at Flood’s Creek was one of tremendous heat; but in the afternoon the wind flew round to the S.W. from the opposite point of the compass, and it became cooler. On the 11th, I detached Mr. Poole and Mr. Browne, with a fortnight’s provisions, to the N.E. in search of water. It may appear that I had given these officers but a short respite from their late labours; but the truth is that a camp life is a monotonous one, and both enjoyed such excursions, and when there was no necessity for other arrangements, as they evinced a great interest in the expedition, I was glad to contribute to their pleasures, and should have rejoiced if it had fallen to their lot to make any new and important discovery.
My instructions to Mr. Poole on these occasions were general. To keep a course somewhat to the eastward of north, but to be guided by circumstances. I thought it better to give him that discretionary power, since I could not know what changes might take place in the country.
I sent Flood at the same time to ride along the base of the ranges; but desired him not to be absent more than three or four days, as I myself contemplated an excursion to the eastward, to examine the country on that side as I passed up it.
The reader will observe, that although slowly, we were gradually, and, I think, steadily working our way into the interior. At that time I hoped with God’s blessing we should have raised the veil that had so long hung over it, more effectually than we did. Up to that period we had been exceedingly fortunate; nothing had occurred to disturb the tranquillity of our proceedings; no natives to interrupt our movements; no want either of water or grass for our cattle, however scarce the parties scouring the country might have found it; no neglect on the part of the men, and a consequent efficient state of the whole party. But time brings round events to produce a change in all things; the book of fate being closed to our inspection, it is only from the past that we discover what its pages before concealed from us.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00