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Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 12

Land the Stores and Send the Cutter to Denial Bay — Party Remove to Point Fowler — Leave the Party — Beds Of Lakes — Dense Scrub — Coast Sand Drifts — Fruitless Search for Water — Distress of the Horses — Turn Back — Leave a Horse — Find Water — Rejoin Party — Send for the Horse — Country Around Depot — Take a Dray to the Westward — Wretched Country — Eall in with Natives — Misunderstand Their Signs — They Leave Us — Vain Search for Water — Turn Back — Horse Knocked Up — Go Back for Water — Rejoin the Dray — Commence Return — Search for Water — Dray Surrounded by Natives — Embarrassing Situation — Bury Baggage — Three Horses Abandoned — Reach the Sand Drifts — Unsuccessful Attempts to Save the Horses — Send for Fresh Horses — Search for Water to N. E. — Recover the Dray and Stores — Rejoin the Party at Depot Near Point Fowler — Return of The Cutter.

December 10

December 10. — After an early breakfast, we took the horses to water and cleared the hole out thoroughly, as I expected five more horses in the evening. Upon returning to the plain, fires of the natives were again seen to the north-east; but they did not approach us. Our provisions were now quite exhausted, and having already lived for many days upon a very low diet, we looked out anxiously for the expected relay. About four o’clock, Mr. Scott, two men, and five horses arrived, bringing us supplies; so that no time had been lost after the arrival of my messenger. The hole having been previously enlarged and cleared out, no difficulty was experienced in watering the horses, and about sunset all encamped together under the sand-hills at the grassy plain.

December 11

December 11. — Leaving directions with Mr. Scott to take back to the depot, to-morrow, the two horses we had been working so severely, and which were now recruiting a little; and giving orders to the two men to follow the dray track to the north-west tomorrow, with the three fresh horses, I once more set off with the native boy to revisit the scene of our late disasters; and recover the dray and other things we had abandoned. We passed by the three dead horses on our route, now lying stiff and cold; in our situation a melancholy spectacle, and which awakened gloomy and cheerless anticipations for the future, by reminding us of the crippled state of our resources, and of the dreadful character of the inhospitable region we had to penetrate. At dark we came to the little plain where the dray was, and found both it and our baggage undisturbed; nor was it apparent that any natives had visited the place since we left it. During the evening a few slight showers fell, which, with a heavy dew, moistened the withered grass, and enabled our horses to feed tolerably well.

December 12

December 12. — I had proceeded a day in advance of the men and horses coming to recover the dray, in order that I might satisfy myself whether there was water or not near the plains to the east or north-east, as there were some grounds for supposing that such might be the case, from the fact of so many natives having been twice seen there, and the probability that they had remained for five days in the neighbourhood. To-day I devoted to a thorough examination of the country around; and, accompanied by the boy, proceeded early away to the north-east, returning southerly, and then crossing back westerly to the camp. We travelled over a great extent of ground, consisting principally of very dense scrub, with here and there occasional grassy openings; but no where could we observe the slightest indications of the existence of water, although the traces of natives were numerous and recent; and we tracked them for several miles, often seeing places where they had broken down the shrubs to get a grub, which is generally found there, out of the root; and observing the fragments of the long lateral roots of the gum-scrub, which they had dug up to get water from. And this, I am inclined to think, is what they depend upon principally in these arid regions for the little water they require. The general direction taken by these wanderers of the desert, was to the north-east. About four o’clock the men with the dray-horses arrived, bringing ten gallons of water, which we divided among the horses, and then took it in turn to watch them during the night.

December 13

December 13. — Having buried a few things that I might require when I should come out here again, (for I determined not to give up the attempt to round the Great Bight,) I had all the rest of our luggage taken up, and the horses being harnessed, we returned with the dray to the water at the sand-hills, arriving there early in the afternoon. We had yoked up three strong fresh horses, that had done no work for some time previously; and yet, such was the nature of the country, that with an almost empty dray, they had hardly been able to reach the water, at the furthest only twenty-two miles distant, and in accomplishing this, they had been upwards of ten hours in the collar. How then could we expect to get through such a region with drays heavily loaded, as ours must be, when we moved on finally.

December 14

On the 14th we remained in camp to refresh the horses, and early on the following day proceeded through the scrub, on our return to the depot; first burying our pack-saddle, and a few other things, in the plain near the sand-hills. Notwithstanding the care we had taken of the horses, and the little work we had given them, they got fagged in going through the scrub, and I was obliged to halt the dray at the rocky well in the plains, five miles short of the depot. I myself went on with the boy to the camp at Point Fowler, where I found the party feasting upon emus, four of which they had shot during my absence.

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