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Edward John Eyre - Vol 2 - Ch 5

Large Watercourse — Lake of Fresh Water — Heavy Rains — Reach Mount Barren — Salt Lakes and Streams — Barren Scrubby Country — Ranges Behind King George’s Sound Are Seen — Brackish Ponds — Pass Cape Riche — A Large Salt River — Chains of Ponds — Good Land — Heavily Timbered Country — Cold Weather — Fresh Lake — The Candiup River — King’s River — Excessive Rains — Arrival at King George’s Sound and Termination of the Expedition — Reception of Wylie by the Natives.

June 24

June 24. — UPON moving on early this morning, we crossed the bed of a considerable watercourse, containing large deep pools of brackish water, but unconnected at present by any stream. The late hour at which we halted last night had prevented us from noticing this larger chain of ponds, and of which, that we were encamped upon formed only a branch. The country we now passed through, varied but little in character, except that the shrubs became higher, with a good deal of the Eucalyptus dumosa intermingled with them, and were entangled together by matted creepers or vines, which made it extremely difficult and fatiguing to force a way through. The whole was very sterile, and without grass.

After travelling nine miles, we passed on our right a small lake of fresh water; and two miles beyond this another, about a mile in circumference, but deep, and evidently of a permanent character. Close to this fresh water lake was another, divided from it by only a narrow neck of land, and yet the latter was as salt as the sea. We had only made a short stage as yet; but as there was a little food for the horses near the lake, I thought it more prudent to halt there than run the risk of being left without in the wretched looking country before us,

The Mount Barren ranges were observed again, but the weather was cloudy, so that I could make nothing out distinctly. In the afternoon, Wylie shot three teal, of which there were numbers on the lake. At night, our baggage and clothes had nearly all been destroyed by fire, a spark having been carried by the wind to the tarpaulin which covered them, and which, as it had been but newly tarred, was soon in a blaze. I was fortunate enough, however, to observe the accident in time to save our other effects.

June 25

June 25. — We commenced our journey early, but had not gone far before the rain began to fall, and continued until ten o’clock. Occasionally the showers came down in perfect torrents, rendering us very cold and miserable, and giving the whole country the appearance of a large puddle. We were literally walking in water; and by stooping down, almost any where as we went along, could have dipped a pint pot half full. It was dreadful work to travel thus in the water, and with the wet from the long brush soaking our clothes for so many hours; but there was no help for it, as we could not find a blade of grass for our horses, to enable us to halt sooner. The surface of the whole country was stony and barren in the extreme. A mile from our camp, we passed a small salt lake on our left; and at fifteen miles more, came to a valley with some wiry grass in it. At this I halted, as there was no prospect of getting better grass, and the water left by the rains was abundant. The latter, though it had only fallen an hour or two, was in many places quite salt, and the best of it brackish, so thoroughly saline was the nature of the soil upon which it had been deposited.

As the afternoon proved fine, I traced down the valley we were upon to its junction with a stream flowing over a granite bed, about a mile from our camp. In this the pools of water were large, deep, and brackish, but there was plenty of fresh water left by the rains in holes of the rocks upon its banks. As, however, there did not appear to be better grass upon the larger channel, than in the valley where we were, I did not think it worth while to remove our camp.

June 26

June 26. — I determined to remain in camp today to rest the horses, and to enable me to arrange their loads, so that Wylie and I might again ride occasionally. We had both walked for the last eleven days, during which we had made good a distance of 134 miles from Rossiter Bay, and as I calculated we ought under ordinary circumstances to reach the Sound in ten days more, I thought that we might occasionally indulge in riding, and relieve ourselves from the great fatigue we had hitherto been subject to, especially as the horses were daily improving in strength and condition.

Whilst I was engaged in making the necessary preparations, and throwing away some things which I thought we could dispense with, such as our bucket, some harness, ammunition, cooking utensils, and sundry other things, Wylie took the rifle, and went down to the watercourse to shoot. On his return in the afternoon he produced four teal and a black swan, as the produce of his day’s sport; he had, however, shot away every charge of shot from the belt, which had been filled on board the Mississippi, and held three pounds and a half, besides three ball cartridges; how often he fired at the swan before he got it I could never discover, but I heard shot after shot as fast as he could load and fire for some time, and he himself acknowledged to firing at it seven times, but I suspect it to have been nearer twice seven.

To-day we were obliged to fetch up what water we required for our own use, from the holes in the granite rocks near the river, that lying on the ground near our camp being too salt for use.

June 27

June 27. — Upon moving on this morning we passed towards the Mount Barren ranges for ten miles through the same sterile country, and then observing a watercourse coming from the hills, I became apprehensive I should experience some difficulty in crossing it near the ranges, from their rocky and precipitous character, and at once turned more southerly to keep between the sea and a salt lake, into which the stream emptied itself. After getting nearly half round the lake, our progress was impeded by a dense and most difficult scrub of the Eucalyptus dumosa. Upon entering it we found the scrub large and strong, and growing very close together, whilst the fallen trees, dead wood, and sticks lying about in every direction, to the height of a man’s breast, rendered our passage difficult and dangerous to the horses in the extreme. Indeed, when we were in the midst of it, the poor animals suffered so much, and progressed so little, that I feared we should hardly get them either through it or back again. By dint of great labour and perseverance we passed through a mile of it, and then emerging upon the beach followed it for a short distance, until steep rocky hills coming nearly bluff into the sea, obliged us to turn up under them, and encamp for the night not far from the lake. Here our horses procured tolerable grass, whilst we obtained a little fresh water for ourselves among the hollows of the rocks.

Our stage had been about thirteen miles, and our position was S. 30 degrees E. from East Mount Barren, the hills under which we were encamped being connected with that range. Most properly had it been called Mount Barren, for a more wretched aridlooking country never existed than that around it. The Mount Barren ranges are of quartz or reddish micaceous slate, the rocks project in sharp rugged masses, and the strata are all perpendicular.

June 28

June 28. — Upon getting up this morning we saw the smoke of native fires along the margin of the lake, at less than a mile from us. They had already noticed our fire, and called out repeatedly to us, but as I did not wish to come into communication with them at all, I did not reply. Soon afterwards we saw them in the midst of the lake carrying boughs, and apparently fishing. Three miles from the lake we crossed a small salt stream, and a mile further another. Four miles beyond the latter we came to a very deep narrow salt lake, swarming with swans, pelicans, and ducks. As the passage between the lake and the sea appeared to be scrubby, and very similar to that we had found so much difficulty in passing yesterday, I turned to the north-west to head it inland; but had not proceeded far before I found our progress stopped by a large salt-water stream, which joined the lake, and whose course was through steep precipitous ravines. By following the river upwards I came to a place where we could descend into its basin, and as the water there, though brackish, was still drinkable, I halted for the night after a stage of fourteen miles. The horses were a good deal tired with the rough hilly road they had passed over, and having been without water last night, stood greatly in need of rest.

In the afternoon Wylie took the rifle to shoot some of the swans and ducks around us, but was not successful. I remained at the camp, breaking down and clearing a passage amongst the shrubs and trees which grew in the rocky bed of the watercourse, to enable us to get our horses readily across to-morrow. Our position bore S. W. from East Mount Barren, E. from a bluff range three miles from us, and N. 55 degrees E. from some high hills in the direction of Middle Mount Barren. The course of the stream we were encamped upon being nearly north and south.