Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 10

Country Between Streaky Bay and Baxter’s Range — Its Scrubby Character — Gawler Range — Mount Sturt — Ascend a Peak — Salt Lakes — Beautiful Flower — Ascend Another Hill — Mount Brown Seen — Extensive View to the North — Lake Gilles — Baxter’s Range.

During the time that I had been occupied in conducting my division of the party from Baxter’s Range to Port Lincoln, the overseer had been engaged in guiding the other portion across to Streaky Bay, upon my former track from thence to Mount Arden, in September 1839. The following brief extracts from my Journal of that period, whilst crossing from Streaky Bay to Mount Arden, will convey an idea of the character of the country extending between these two points; and of the great difficulty, indeed almost the impossibility of forcing a passage, except immediately after the occurrence of heavy rains.

1839, Sept. 18. — We left the depot near Streaky Bay, at a course nearly due east, and passing through alternations of brush and of open grassy plains, upon the skirts of which grew a few casuarinae; halted after a stage of eighteen miles, at an opening in the brush, where we had good grass, but no water; we were consequently obliged to watch the horses during the night, to prevent their straying. From this camp Mount Hall bore S. 2 degrees E. and Mount Cooper S. E. the variation of the compass being 2 degrees 22 minutes E.

September 19. — Travelling east through the same kind of country for fifteen miles, we halted upon a high scrubby ridge; having a few grassy openings at intervals, and with large sheets of granite exposed in some parts of its surface. In the holes among these rocks we procured a supply of water that had been deposited by the late rains; but which a few warm days would have dried up. The latitude of the water was 32 degrees 48 minutes S. and from it Mount Hall bore S. 38 degrees W., Mount Cooper S. 15 degrees W. Before us to the north-east were visible many peaks of a range, with a high and broken outline, which I named the Gawler range, after His Excellency Colonel Gawler, the Governor of South Australia. One very high peak in this range I named Mount Sturt, after my friend Captain Sturt; it bore from our present camp E. 10 degrees N. and had been previously seen from the summit of Mount Hall.

September 20. — Our route to-day was through a perfect desert, very scrubby and stony, with much prickly grass growing upon the sand ridges, which alternated with the hard limestone flats; there were very few clear intervals of country upon our whole course; and for the last five miles the heavy sand and dense scrub made it very difficult to get on at all. After a long stage of twenty-five miles nearly due east, we halted at a high ridge similar to that upon which we encamped last night, with sheets of granite exposed on its surface, and rain water lodged in the hollows. The horses were all completely knocked up with the severe labour of this day’s stage; I ascertained the latitude of the camp to be 32 degrees 47 minutes 40 seconds S. and the variation of the compass which increased as we advanced to the eastward, was now 4 degrees 12 minutes E. The Gawler range was now distinctly visible, extending from N. 15 degrees W. to N. 65 degrees E. and presenting the broken and picturesque outline of a vast mountain mass rising abruptly out of the low scrubby country around. The principal elevations in this extensive range, could not be less than two thousand feet; and they appeared to increase in height as the range trended to the north-west. To the eastward the ranges decreased somewhat in elevation, but were still very lofty.

September 21. — We had another long stage to-day of twenty miles, over, if possible, a worse road than yesterday, no intermission whatever of the heavy steep sandy ridges and dense eucalyptus scrub; the horses were dreadfully jaded, and we were obliged to relieve them by yoking up all the riding horses that would draw. Even with this aid we did not get the journey over until an hour and a half after dark. During the day our course had been more to the northward of east, and brought us close under the Gawler range. At fourteen miles after starting, we passed a salt lake on our right, and several salt ponds on our left; but we could find no permanent fresh water anywhere. In the rocks of the range we had encamped under, we procured a small quantity left by the rains, but this supply was rapidly disappearing under the rays of a very hot sun, and had we been a few days later, we could not have crossed at all. The latitude of our camp was 32 degrees 41 minutes 40 seconds S.