Category: Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 11
Written by Edward John Eyre
November 15. — In the morning we started as early as possible to get the stage over before the great heat of the day came on, still accompanied and guided by the friendly natives, who took us through the best and most open line of country. At six miles we entered a very dense scrub, leaving to the north of us, several patches of open plains; to the north-east were seen the smokes of several fires. The natives had told us that there was water out in that direction, at a short day’s journey; but, as they did not wish us to go to it, I inferred that they thought there was not enough to satisfy our party, having now frequently seen how great was the supply we required at each encampment. I was myself of the opinion that a hole probably existed to the north-east similar to the one we had found in the plains behind Point Brown, where the access is difficult, and the quantity procurable at any one time not very great. The scrub we had traversed to-day was principally of salt-water tea-tree, growing upon a succession of steep sandy ridges, which presented a formidable barrier to the progress of the drays; the distance to be accomplished was not above fourteen miles; but so difficult was the nature of the country, and so oppressive the heat, that, notwithstanding our very early start, it was four o’clock in the afternoon before we arrived at the place of destination, which was called by the natives, “Mobeela gaippe.” The horses and men were greatly fatigued, but for the latter, the labours of the day were far from being over, for, upon arriving at the place where the water was to be procured, I found that the holes, sunk by the natives, were through ridges of a loose sand to a depth of fourteen or fifteen feet, at the bottom of which, water was obtained in very small quantities. There were several of these holes still open, and the traces of many others in every direction around, which had either fallen in or been filled up by the drifting of the sand. These singular wells, although sunk through a loose sand to a depth of fourteen or fifteen feet, were only about two feet in diameter at the bore, quite circular, carried straight down, and the work beautifully executed. To get at the water, the natives placed a long pole against one side of the well, ascending and descending by it to avoid friction against the sides, which would have inevitably sent the sand tumbling in upon them. We, however, who were so much clumsier in all our movements, could not make use of the same expedient, nor indeed, would the size of the wells, made by the natives, have enabled us even with their assistance, to get out a moderate supply for the horses. It became necessary, therefore, to open a new well, of much larger dimensions, a task of no easy kind in so loose a sand.
Having put the overseer and men to their arduous employment, I ascended the highest of the sand hills, and took a set of angles, among which Point Fowler bore W. 16 degrees S. and Point Bell, E. 40 degrees S.
A small lake was visible at W. 40 degrees N. The country still looked very cheerless in every direction, and no signs of improvement appeared to relieve the dreary scene around, or to lead me to hope for better country beyond.
Upon rejoining the well diggers, I found after great exertions they had thrown out an immense quantity of sand, and made a large and commodious well, and were just going to commence watering the horses; at this juncture and before a single bucket of water could be taken out, the sand slipped, and the sides of the well tumbled in, nearly burving alive the man who was at the bottom. The labour of two hours was lost, and tired as they were, the men had to begin their work afresh. It was eight at night before the well was cleared out again sufficiently to enable us to water the horses, for almost as fast as the sand was thrown out other sand fell in; by nine the whole of them had received two buckets of water each, when the sides of the well again shot in, and we were obliged to give up our digging operations altogether, as the men were completely exhausted; to relieve them Mr. Scott and I watched the horses during the night.