- Category: Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 11
- Written by Edward John Eyre
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November 9. — Upon mustering the horses this morning I found they were looking so exhausted and jaded after the hard toil they had gone through in the last three days, that I could not venture to put them to work again to-day. I was consequently obliged to remain in camp, to rest both them and the men, all of whom were much fatigued. The well in the sand was even salter to-day than we had found it yesterday, and was quite unserviceable; the men had sunk the hole rather too deep, that they might get the water in greater abundance; but when the tide rose it flowed in under the sand and spoiled the whole. As the water, even at the best, had been so salt that we could not use it ourselves, and as it was far from being wholesome for the horses, I did not think it worth while to give the men the fatigue of digging another hole. I therefore put both horses and men upon a limited allowance, and got a cask containing sixty gallons from the cutter for our day’s supply. I also took the opportunity of again lightening our loads by sending on board some more of the baggage and the light cart. This, by decreasing the number of our teams, would, I thought, enable me to change the horses occasionally in the others, and give me an extra man to assist in clearing a road through the scrub, Having completed my arrangements, I sent on the Waterwitch to the north-east part of Denial Bay, to land water there, as I did not expect to get any until our arrival at Point Peter. Mr. Scott accompanied the cutter, having expressed a wish to take a trip in her for a few days.
During the forenoon we were visited by a party of natives, who came to get water at the hole in the sand. They were not much alarmed, and soon became very friendly, remaining near us all night; from them I learned that there was no water inland, and none along the coast for two days’ journey, after which we should come to plenty, at a place called by them “Beelimah Gaip-pe;.” Their language was nearly the same as that of Port Lincoln, intermixed with a few words in use at King George’s Sound, and I now regretted greatly that I had not the Western Australian native with me.
I found a most singular custom prevailing among the natives of this part of the country, which I had never found to exist anywhere else (except at Port Lincoln), and the origin of which it would be most difficult to account for. In various parts of Australia some of the tribes practise the rite of circumcision, whilst others do not; but in the Port Lincoln peninsula, and along the coast to the westward, the natives not only are circumcised, but have in addition another most extraordinary ceremonial. [Note 24: Finditus usque ad urethram a parte infera penis.] Among the party of natives at the camp I examined many, and all had been operated upon. The ceremony with them seemed to have taken place between the ages of twelve and fourteen years, for several of the boys of that age had recently undergone the operation, the wounds being still fresh and inflamed. This extraordinary and inexplicable custom must have a great tendency to prevent the rapid increase of the population; and its adoption may perhaps be a wise ordination of Providence, for that purpose, in a country of so desert and arid a character as that which these people occupy.