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December 17. — HAVING now maturely considered the serious position I was in, the difficult nature of the country, the reduced condition and diminished number of my horses, and the very unfavourable season of the year, I decided upon taking advantage of a considerate clause in the Governor’s letter, authorizing me “to send back the Waterwitch to Adelaide for assistance, if required.”

From the experience I had already had, and from the knowledge I had thus acquired of the character of the country to the westward and to the north, it was evident that I could never hope to take my whole party, small as it was, with me in either direction. I had already lost three horses in an attempt to get round the head of the Bight, and I had also found that my three best horses now remaining, when strong and fresh after a long period of rest at the depot, had with difficulty been able to move along with an empty dray in the heavy sandy country to the north-west; how could I expect, then, to take drays when loaded with provisions and other stores? Hitherto we had enjoyed the assistance of the cutter in passing up the coast — by putting all our heavy baggage on board of her, the drays were comparatively empty, and we had got on tolerably well. We could no longer, however, avail ourselves of this valuable aid, for we were now past all harbours. Fowler’s Bay being the last place of refuge where a vessel could take shelter for many hundred miles, whilst the fearful nature of the coast and the strong current setting into the Bight, made it very dangerous for a vessel to approach the land at all. Upon leaving Fowler’s Bay, therefore, it was evident that we must be dependent entirely upon our own resources; and it became necessary for me to weigh well and maturely how I might best arrange my plans so as to meet the necessity of the case. It appeared to me that if I sent two of my men back to Adelaide in the Waterwitch , a single dray would carry every necessary for the reduced party remaining, and that by obtaining a supply of oats and bran for the horses, and giving them a long rest, they might so far recover strength and spirits as to afford me reasonable grounds of hope that we might succeed in forcing a passage through the country to the westward, bad as it evidently was. Acting upon the opinion I had arrived at, I sent for the master of the cutter and requested him to get ready at once for sea, and then communicated my decision to the two men who were to leave us, Corporal Coles, R.S. and M. and John Houston, requesting them to get ready to embark to-morrow. They did not appear to experience much surprise, and were I think on the whole rather pleased than otherwise at the prospect of a return to Adelaide. Both these men had conducted themselves remarkably well during the whole time they were in the party, and one of them, John Houston, had been with me in my late disastrous expedition, during which his obedience and good conduct had been beyond all praise. We had, however, now been absent for six months, had traversed a great extent of country, and undergone many hardships; the country we had met with had unfortunately always been of the most barren and disheartening character, and that which was yet before us appeared to be if possible still worse, so that I could not wonder that my men should appear gratified in the prospect of a termination to their labours. With so little to cheer and encourage, they might well perhaps doubt of our final success.