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.

September 22

September 22. — This morning I ascended one of the heights in the Gawler range, from which the view is extensive to the southward, over a generally low level country, with occasional elevations at intervals; to the north the view is obstructed by the Gawler range, consisting apparently of a succession of detached ridges high and rocky, and entirely of a porphoritic granite lying in huge bare masses upon the surface. The hills [Note 21 at end of para.] were without either timber or shrubs, and very barren, with their front slopes exceedingly steep, and covered by small loose stones; several salt lakes were seen in various directions, but no indications of fresh water or springs.

[Note 21: Peron’s description of the mountains on the South-western coast, is singularly applicable to the Gawler range — He says, Tom. III. p. 233. “Sur ces montagnes pelees on ne voit pas un arbre, pas un arbriseau, pas un arbuste; rien, en un mot, qui puisse faire souponner l’existence de queque terre vegetale. La durete du roc paroit braver ici tous les efforts de la nature, et resister a ces memes moyens de decomposition qu’ elle emploie ailleurs avec tant de succes.”]

It was late before the party moved on to-day, but the road was somewhat better, and there were many intervals of open grassy plains under the hills along which we travelled, at a course of E. 17 degrees N. for twenty-five miles. Encamping at night with tolerable grass, but without water. There had been a considerable pool of rain water here a few days ago, but it was now nearly dried up by the sun, and I was obliged to order the horses to be watched during the night.

To-day I found a most splendid creeping plant in flower, growing in between the ranges, it was quite new to me, and very beautiful; the leaf was like that of the vetch but larger, the flower bright scarlet, with a rich purple centre, shaped like a half globe with the convex side outwards; it was winged, and something like a sweet pea in shape, the flowers hung pendent upon long slender stalks, very similar to those of sweet peas, and in the greatest profusion; altogether it was one of the prettiest and richest looking flowers I have seen in Australia.

September 23

September 23. — Moving on over a firm road, but with much scrub and prickly grass, we travelled for fifteen miles under the hills at a course of E. 20 degrees N., encamping early in the afternoon close under them, and procuring a little water left in the hollows by the rains. I ascended another of the heights in the Gawler range to-day, but could obtain no clear view from it, the weather being hazy. Ridge behind ridge still appeared to rise to the north, beyond the front one under which we were travelling; and several salt lakes were seen among the hills at intervals. The rock of which the hills were composed was now changed from a porphoritic granite to a reddish quartz, which was scattered all over the front hills in loose small fragments. The latitude of our camp was 32 degrees 30 minutes 35 seconds S.

September 24

September 24. — Our road was firmer to-day, over a red gritty soil of sandy loam and gravel. The hills were still covered with quartz, but decreasing perceptibly in elevation as we advanced to the east. At about eight miles we were lucky enough to find a puddle of rain water, and at once halted for the day to rest and refresh the horses. Having ascended a high peak near the camp, I found I was surrounded by a mass of hills on every side; they gradually increased in elevation as they stretched to the northwest, becoming lower at a bearing of north, and quite detached to the north-east; resembling so many islands in the level waste around them.

September 25

September 25. — Moving from our camp early we had an excellent road, and travelled rapidly for about twenty miles, nearly due east, halting for the night under a high red hill, where we found some rain water for our horses; but the grass was very scarce. After dinner I ascended the hill near the camp and obtained a distant view of Mount Brown, and the range on the east side of Spencer’s Gulf. To the north was one vast sea of level scrub, and in the midst of it a lake; but seemingly of no very great size. A few elevations were seen to the south-east, of all of which I took bearings, and then descended to the camp again. The bearing of Mount Brown, from this hill, was E. 10 degrees S.; and the latitude of the camp, under the hill, was 30 degrees 27 minutes 55 seconds S.

September 26

September 26. — Passing up a barren valley between low hills, we had at first a good road, but afterwards it became very stony. We encamped early, after a short stage of fifteen miles, having gradually left most of the hills to the north of us. One that we were encamped under I ascended, and had a very extensive view, and took many angles. A large lake (named Lake Gilles) [Note 22: After the first Colonial Treasurer of the province.] bore nearly due south, and was the same that had been seen from Baxter’s range; the latter was now distinctly visible at a bearing of E. 20 degrees S. The latitude of our camp was 32 degrees 35 minutes 58 seconds S. There was barely enough rain water found to supply our horses, but the feed was tolerably good.

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  1. September 27