Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 14

Proceed to the Westward — Cliffs of the Great Bight — Level Nature of the Interior — Flints Abound — Return to Yeer-Kumban-Kauwe — Natives Come to the Camp — Their Generous Conduct — Meet the Overseer — Return to Depot — Bad Water — Move Back to Fowler’s Bay — Arrival of the Gutter Hero — Joined by the King George’s Sound Native — Instructions Relative to the Hero — Difficulty of Fixing Upon Any Future Plan — Break Up the Expedition and Divide The Party — Mr. Scott Embarks — Final Report — The Hero Sails — Overseer and Natives Remain — Excursion to the North — A Native Joins Us — Sudden Illness in the Party — Final Preparations for Leaving the Depot.

January 15

January 15. — At sunrise we arrived at the undulating plains, where twenty gallons of water had been left buried for us. Here I found the overseer with two fresh horses, according to the instructions I had sent him on the 6th, by the man who returned. After resting for an hour or two, I set off with the native boy upon the fresh horses, and rode to the water at the sand-drifts, leaving the overseer to bring on the tired animals the next day. It was nearly dark when we arrived at the plain under the sand-hills, and very late before we had watered the horses and brought them back to the grass.

January 16

January 16. — After breakfast, in returning from the water, we had a feast upon some berries, growing on the briary bushes behind the sand-hills; they were similar to those the natives had offered to us, at the head of the Bight, on the 7th, were very abundant, and just becoming ripe. About eight o’clock we set off for the depot, and arrived there at two, glad to reach our temporary home once more, after eighteen days absence, and heartily welcomed by Mr. Scott, who complained bitterly of having been left alone so long. Under the circumstances of the case, however, it had been quite unavoidable. Upon tasting the water at the well, I found, that from so much having been taken out, it had now become so very brackish, that it was scarcely usable, and I decided upon returning again to Fowler’s Bay, where the water was good, as soon as the overseer came back.

January 17

January 17. — Spent the day in writing, and in meditating upon my future plans and prospects. I had now been forty-five miles beyond the head of the Great Bight, that point to which I had looked with interest and hope; now, I had ascertained that no improvement took place there, in the appearance or character of the country, but, if any thing, that it became less inviting, and more arid. The account of the natives fully satisfied me that there was no possibility of getting inland, and my own experience told me that I could never hope to take a loaded dray through the dreadful country I had already traversed on horseback. What then was I to do? or how proceed for the future? The following brief abstract of the labours of the party, and the work performed by the horses in the three attempts made to get round the head of the Great Bight, may perhaps seem incredible to those who know nothing of the difficulty of forcing a passage through such a country as we were in, and amidst all the disadvantages we were under, from the season of the year and other causes.


Names. Distances ridden. No. of days employed. Mr Eyre 643 miles 40 Mr. Scott 50 miles 4 The Overseer 230 miles 22 Costelow 22 Houston 12 Corporal Coles 8 Eldest native boy 270 miles 19 Youngest native boy 395 miles 23

A dray loaded with water was drawn backwards and forwards 238 miles; many of the horses, in addition to the distances they were ridden, or worked in the dray, were driven loose, in going or returning, for about eighty miles. Most of the party walked considerable distances in addition to those ridden. All the party were engaged, more or less, in connection with the three attempts to round the Bight, as were also all the horses, and of the latter, three perished from over fatigue and want of water. Yet, after all, the distance examined did not exceed 135 miles, and might have been done easily in ten days, and without any loss, had the situation of the watering places, or the nature of the country, been previously known.

None but a person who has been similarly circumstanced, can at all conceive the incessant toil and harassing anxiety of the explorer; when baffled and defeated, he has to traverse over and over again the same dreary wastes, gaining but a few miles of ground at each fresh attempt, whilst each renewal of the effort but exhausts still more the strength and condition of his animals, or the energy and spirits of his men.

Upon maturely considering our circumstances and position, I decided to attempt to force a passage round the Great Bight, with pack-horses only, sending, upon the return of the cutter, all our heavy stores and drays in her to Cape Arid, if I found, upon her arrival, the instructions I might receive, would justify me in taking her so far beyond the boundaries of South Australia. This was the only plan that appeared to me at all feasible, and I determined to adopt it as soon as our horses were sufficiently recruited to commence their labours again.

January 18

On the 18th, the overseer returned with the two jaded horses we had used on our last excursion, looking very wretched and weak. The day was intensely hot, with the wind due north: the thermometer in the shade, in a well lined tent, being 105 degrees at 11 A.M. — a strong corroboration, if such were required, of the statement of the natives, that there was no large body of inland water. At 2, P.M. the wind changed to west, and the thermometer suddenly fell to 95 degrees; a little afterwards, it veered to south-west, and again fell to 80 degrees; the afternoon then became comparatively cool and pleasant.

January 19-21

The quality of the water at the well, was now beginning to affect the health of the whole party; and on the 19th and 20th I put into execution my resolution of removing to Fowler’s Bay, where we again enjoyed the luxury of good water. Upon digging up the things we had left buried, we found them perfectly dry. On the 21st, I sent Mr. Scott down to the bay, to see if the cutter had come back, but she had not. On his return, he brought up a few fish he had caught, which, added to ten pigeons, shot by himself and the native boys, at the sand-hills, gave a little variety to our fare; indeed, for several days, after taking up our old position at Point Fowler, we were well supplied both with fish and pigeons.