config

January 1, 1841. — This morning I went down with the men to assist in watering the horses, and upon returning to the camp, found my black boy familiarly seated among a party of natives who had come up during our absence. Two of them were natives I had seen to the north-west, and had been among the party whose presence at the plains, on the 5th of December, when I was surrounded by so many difficulties, had proved so annoying to us at the time, and so fatal in its consequences to our horses. They recognised me at once, and apparently described to the other natives, the circumstances under which they had met me, lamenting most pathetically the death of the horses; the dead bodies of which they had probably seen in their route to the water. Upon examining their weapons they shewed us several that were headed with flint, telling us that they procured it to the north-west, thus confirming my previous conjectures as to the existence of flint in that direction. To our inquiries about water, they still persisted that there was none inland, and that it took them five days, from where we were, to travel to that at the head of the Bight. No other, they said, existed in any direction near us, except a small hole to the north-west, among some sand hills, about two miles off; these they pointed out, and offered to go with me and shew me the place where the water was. I accepted the offer, and proceeded to the sand-drifts, accompanied by one of them. On our arrival he shewed me the remains of a large deep hole that had been dug in one of the sandy flats; but in which the water was now inaccessible, from the great quantity of sand that had drifted in and choked it up. By forcing a spear down to a considerable depth, the native brought it out moist, and shewed it me to prove that he had not been deceiving me. I now returned to the camp, more than ever disposed to credit what I had been told relative to the interior. I had never found the natives attempt to hide from us any waters that they knew of, on the contrary, they had always been eager and ready to point them out, frequently accompanying us for miles, through the heat and amongst scrub, to shew us where they were. I had, therefore, no reason to doubt the accuracy of their statements when they informed me that there was none inland! Many different natives, and at considerable intervals of country apart, had all united in the same statement, and as far as I had yet been able to examine so arid a country personally, my own observations tended to confirm the truth of what they had told me.

In the evening several of the natives went down with the men to water the horses, and when there drank a quantity of water that was absolutely incredible, each man taking from three to four quarts, and this in addition to what they got at the camp during the earlier part of the day. Strange that a people who appear to do with so little water, when traversing the deserts, should use it in such excess when the opportunity of indulgence occurs to them, yet such have I frequently observed to be the case, and especially on those occasions where they have least food. It would seem that, accustomed generally to have the stomach distended after meals, they endeavour to produce this effect with water, when deprived of the opportunity of doing so with more solid substances. At night the natives all encamped with us in the plain.