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Edward John Eyre - Vol 2 - Ch 3

Heavy Road — A Young Kangaroo Shot — Grassy Country — Point Malcolm — Traces of Its Having Been Visited by Europeans — Grass Trees Met with — A Kangaroo Killed — Catch Fish — Get Another Kangaroo — Crab Hunting — Renew the Journey — Casuarinae Met with — Cross the Level Bank — Low Country Behind It — Cape Arid — Salt Water Creek — Xamia Seen — Cabbage Tree of the Sound — Fresh Water Lake — More Salt Streams — Opossums Caught — Flag Reeds Found — Fresh Water Streams — Boats Seen — Meet with a Whaler.

May 18

May 18. — THIS morning we had to travel upon a soft heavy beach, and moved slowly and with difficulty along, and three of the horses were continually attempting to lie down on the road. At twelve miles, we found some nice green grass, and although we could not procure water here, I determined to halt for the sake of the horses. The weather was cool and pleasant. From our camp Mount Ragged bore N. 35 degrees W., and the island we had seen for the last two days, E. 18 degrees S. Having seen some large kangaroos near our camp, I sent Wylie with the rifle to try and get one. At dark he returned bringing home a young one, large enough for two good meals; upon this we feasted at night, and for once Wylie admitted that his belly was full. He commenced by eating a pound and a half of horse-flesh, and a little bread, he then ate the entrails, paunch, liver, lights, tail, and two hind legs of the young kangaroo, next followed a penguin, that he had found dead upon the beach, upon this he forced down the whole of the hide of the kangaroo after singeing the hair off, and wound up this meal by swallowing the tough skin of the penguin; he then made a little fire, and laid down to sleep, and dream of the pleasures of eating, nor do I think he was ever happier in his life than at that moment.

May 19

May 19. — The morning set in very cold and showery, with the wind from the southward, making us shiver terribly as we went along; luckily the country behind the sea-shore was at this place tolerably open, and we were for once enabled to leave the beach, and keep a little inland. The soil was light and sandy, but tolerably fertile. In places we found low brush, in others very handsome clumps of tea-tree scattered at intervals over some grassy tracts of country, giving a pleasing and park-like appearance we had long been strangers to. The grass was green, and afforded a most grateful relief to the eye, accustomed heretofore to rest only upon the naked sands or the gloomy scrubs we had so long been travelling amongst. Anxious if possible to give our horses a day or two’s rest, at such a grassy place, and especially as the many kangaroos we saw, gave us hope of obtaining food for ourselves also, I twice dug for water, but did not find any of such quality as we could use. I was compelled therefore to turn in among the sand-hills of Point Malcolm, where I found excellent water at three and a half feet, and halted for the day, after a stage of five miles. Unfortunately we were now beyond all grass, and had to send the horses by a long and difficult road to it, over steep sandy ridges, densely covered by scrub. Upon halting, one of our horses lay down, appearing to be very ill, for two hours I could not get him to rise, and was sadly afraid he would die, which would have been a serious loss to us, for he was the strongest one we had left. A little inside Point Malcolm, I found traces of Europeans who had slept on shore near the beach, and upon one of the tea-trees, I found cut “Ship Julian, 1840,” “Haws, 1840,” “C. W.” and some few other letters, which I did not copy. The forenoon continued very wild and stormy, with occasional showers of rain, and as we could get neither firewood nor shelter at our camp, and the sand eddied around us in showers, we were very miserable. After dinner, I sent Wylie out with the rifle, to try to shoot a kangaroo, whilst I took a walk round, to look for grass, and to ascertain whether water could not be procured in some place nearer the horses, and better provided with firewood and shelter. My efforts were without success, nor did I meet with better fortune, in examining Point Malcolm, to see if there was any place where we could fish from the shore, the point itself was of granite, but on the sheltered side the water was very shoal, close to the shore, whilst on the outer side the waves were breaking with frightful violence, and the spray curling and rising from the rocks in one perpetual and lofty jet. In the evening Wylie returned without a kangaroo.

The night turned out showery, wild, and cold, making us keenly alive to the bleak, shelterless position we were encamped in.

May 20

May 20. — The sick horse was better to-day, and as they had all found their way back to the best grass, I determined to remain in camp. Wylie took the rifle, and again went out kangarooing, whilst I took a long walk to examine the country, and look out for a line of road to proceed by, when we left our present position. I was anxious, if possible, to give over travelling along the beach where the sands were so loose and heavy, not only causing great extra fatigue to the horses, but adding also considerably to the distance we should otherwise have to travel. For some distance I passed over steep ridges, densely covered with large tea-trees or with other scrub, after which I emerged upon open sandy downs, covered with low shrubs or bushes, and frequently having patches of good grass interspersed; the grass-tree was here met with for the first time, but not very abundantly. This description of country continued between the coast and the low level bank which still shut out all view of the interior, though it had greatly decreased in elevation as we advanced to the west, and appeared as if it would soon merge in the level of the country around. The day was tolerably fine, but windy, and a few slight showers fell at intervals. At dusk I got up the horses, watered them, and was preparing to remove the baggage to a more sheltered place, when Wylie made his appearance, with the gratifying intelligence that he had shot one kangaroo, and wounded another; the dead one he said was too far away for us to get it to-night, and we, therefore, (very unwillingly,) left it until the morning, and at present only removed our baggage nearer to the grass, and among thick clumps of tea-trees where we had shelter and firewood in abundance. The only inconvenience being that we were obliged to be economical of water, having to bring it all from the sand-drifts, and our kegs only carrying a few quarts at a time. In the prospect of a supply of kangaroo, we finished the last of our horse-flesh to-night. It had lasted us tolerably well, and though we had not gained above sixty-five miles of distance, since we commenced it, yet we had accomplished this so gradually, that the horses had not suffered so much as might have been expected, and were improving somewhat in strength and appearance every day. It was much to have got them to advance at all, considering the dreadful sufferings they had endured previous to our arrival at water on the 3rd of May.

May 21

Getting up one of the horses early on the 21st, we took some water with us and proceeded to where Wylie had left the kangaroo, to breakfast. Fortunately it had not been molested by the wild dogs during the night. Though not of a large species, it was a full grown animal, and furnished us with a grateful supply of wholesome food. Once more Wylie enjoyed as much as he could eat, and after breakfast, I took the horse back to the camp, carrying with me about thirty-two pounds weight of the best and most fleshy parts of the kangaroo. Wylie remained behind with the rifle, to return leisurely and try to shoot another; but early in the afternoon he returned, not having seen one. The truth, I suspect was, that he had eaten too much to breakfast, and laid down to sleep when I was gone, coming back to the camp as soon as he felt hungry again. The rest of the day was taken up in attending to the horses and bringing a supply of water up for ourselves. The weather was mild and pleasant, and a few slight showers fell at night, but we were now so well protected among the tea-trees, and had so much firewood, that we were not inconvenienced by the rain.

May 22

As I still intended to remain in camp to recruit the horses, I wished Wylie to go out again on the 22nd, to try for another kangaroo; but the other not being yet all used, he was very unwilling to do so, and it was only upon my threatening to move on if he did not, that I could get him out. As soon as he was gone, I went down to Point Malcolm to try to fish, as the weather was now so much more moderate. Unfortunately, my tackling was not strong, and after catching three rock-fish, weighing together three pounds and a half; a large fish got hooked, and took great part of my line, hook and all, away.

It was very vexing to lose a line when I had not many, but still more so to miss a fine fish that would have weighed fifteen or sixteen pounds. Being obliged to come back, I spent the remainder of the afternoon in preparing lines for the morrow.

Towards evening Wylie returned gloomy and sulky, and without having fired a shot; neither had he brought the horses up with him to water as I had requested him to do, and now it was too late to go for them, and they would have to be without water for the night. I was vexed at this, and gave him a good scolding for his negligence, after which I endeavoured to ascertain what had so thoroughly put him out of humour, for ordinarily he was one of the best tempered natives I had met with: a single sentence revealed the whole — “The —— dogs had eaten the skin.”

This observation came from the very bottom of his soul, and at once gave me an idea of the magnitude of the disappointment he had sustained; the fact was, upon leaving the camp in the morning he had taken a firestick in his hand, and gone straight back to where we skinned the kangaroo on the 21st, with the intention of singeing off the hair and eating the skin, which had been left hanging over a bush. Upon his arrival he found it gone: the wild dogs had been beforehand with him and deprived him of the meal he expected; hence his gloomy, discontented look upon his return. As yet I had not told him that I had been fishing; but upon showing him what I had brought home, and giving him the two largest for supper, his brow again cleared, and he voluntarily offered to go out again to try to get a kangaroo to-morrow.