Category: Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 13
Written by Edward John Eyre
January 6. — Sending back the dray with the overseer, at the first dawn of day, I and the native boy proceeded to the north-west, accompanied by the man leading a pack-horse with twelve gallons of water. The day turned out hot, and the road was over a very heavy sandy country; but by eleven o’clock we had accomplished a distance of seventeen miles, and had reached the furthest point from which I turned back on the 1st December. I walked alternately with the boy, so as not to oppress the riding horses, but the man walked all the way.
The weather was most intensely hot, a strong wind blowing from the north-east, throwing upon us an oppressive and scorching current of heated air, like the hot blast of a furnace. There was no misunderstanding the nature of the country from which such a wind came; often as I had been annoyed by the heat, I had never experienced any thing like it before. Had anything been wanting to confirm my previous opinion of the arid and desert character of the great mass of the interior of Australia, this wind would have been quite sufficient for that purpose. From those who differ from me in opinion (and some there are who do so whose intelligence and judgment entitle their opinion to great respect), I would ask, could such a wind be be wafted over an inland sea? or could it have passed over the supposed high, and perhaps snowcapped mountains of the interior.
We were all now suffering greatly from the heat; the man who was with me was quite exhausted: under the annoyances of the moment, his spirits failed him, and giving way to his feelings of fatigue and thirst, he lay rolling on the ground, and groaning in despair; all my efforts to rouse him were for a long time in vain, and I could not even induce him to get up to boil a little tea for himself. We had halted about eleven in the midst of a low sandy flat, not far from the sea, thinking, that by a careful examination, we might find a place where water could be procured by digging. There were, however, no trees or bushes near us; and the heat of the sun, and the glare of the sand, were so intolerable, that I was obliged to get up the horses, and compel the man to go on a little further to seek for shelter.
Proceeding one mile towards the sea, we came to a projecting rock upon its shores; and as there was no hope of a better place being found, I tied up my horses near it; the rock was not large enough to protect them entirely from the sun, but by standing close under it, their heads and necks were tolerably shaded. For ourselves, a recess of the rock afforded a delightful retreat, whilst the immediate vicinity of the sea enabled us every now and then to take a run, and plunge amidst its breakers, and again return to the shelter of the cavern. For two or three hours we remained in, under the protection of the rock, without clothes, and occasionally bathing to cool ourselves. The native boy and I derived great advantage from thus dipping in the sea, but it was a long time before I could induce the man to follow our example, either by persuasion or threats; his courage had failed him, and he lay moaning like a child. At last I succeeded in getting him to strip and bathe, and he at once found the benefit of it, becoming in a short time comparatively cool and comfortable. We then each had a little more tea, and afterwards attempted to dig for water among the sand-hills. The sand, however, was so loose, that it ran in faster than we could throw it out, and we were obliged to give up the attempt.
As the afternoon was far advanced, we saddled the horses, and pushed on again for five miles, hoping, but in vain, to find a little grass. At night we halted among the sandy ridges behind the seashore, and after giving the horses four quarts of oats and a bucket of water a-piece, we were obliged to tie them up, there not being a blade of grass anywhere about. The wind at night changed to the south-west, and was very cold, chilling us almost as much as the previous heat had oppressed us. These sudden and excessive changes in temperature induce great susceptibility in the system, and expose the traveller to frequent heats and chills that cannot be otherwise than injurious to the constitution.