Category: Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 15
Written by Edward John Eyre
March 3. — Having got up and watered the horses and sheep, I sent the boy out to tend them at grass, whilst I commenced digging two large holes to water the pack-horses, that there might be no delay when the overseer came up with them. I had nothing but a shell to dig with, and, as a very large excavation was required to enable a bucket to be dipped, my occupation was neither a light nor a short one. Having completed my work, I killed a sheep, well knowing the party would be fatigued and hungry, when they came up. About three they made their appearance, and thus, upon the whole, we had very successfully got over this our first push, and were soon very comfortably established at “Yeerkumban kauwe.” The holes I had dug enabled us easily and speedily to water the horses, and the sheep I had killed afforded a refreshing meal to the overseer and boys, after their harassing journey. In the afternoon the sand blew about in a most annoying manner, covering us from head to foot, and filling everything we put down, if but for an instant. This sand had been our constant torment for many weeks past; condemned to live among the sand-hills for the sake of procuring water, we were never free from irritation and inconvenience. It floated on the surface of the water, penetrated into our clothes, hair, eyes, and ears, our provisions were covered over with it, and our blankets half buried when we lay down at nights, — it was a perpetual and never-ceasing torment, and as if to increase our miseries we were again afflicted with swarms of large horse-flies, which bit us dreadfully. On the 4th, we remained in camp to rest the horses, and I walked round to reconnoitre. Upon the beach I found the fragments of a wreck, consisting of part of a mast, a tiller wheel, and some copper sheathings, the last sad records of the fate of some unfortunate vessel on this wild and breaker-beaten shore. There was nothing to indicate its size, or name, or the period when the wreck occurred.
No recent traces of natives having been either at Yeerkumban kauwe, or the more distant water, were visible anywhere, and I imagined they might perhaps have made an excursion to the westward. A large flight of red-winged cockatoos were seen today hovering around the sand-hills, and appearing quite disconcerted at finding us in possession of the water; we had not before seen them in the neighbourhood, and I can hardly conjecture where they go to from this place, for generally they are birds fond of water.
Knowing from the accounts of the natives that upon leaving Yeerkumban kauwe, I should have a task before me of no ordinary difficulty to get either the sheep or the horses to the next water, I determined to proceed myself in advance, with the sheep, that by travelling slowly, at the same time that we kept steadily advancing, every chance might be given to them of accomplishing the journey in safety. I was anxious too to precede my party, in order that by finding out where the water was, I might be on the look out for them, to guide them to it, and that thus when in their greatest difficulty, no time should be lost in searching for water. Having given the overseer orders to keep the tracks of my horses, when he had travelled about seventy miles along the coast, I set off on the 7th March, with the youngest of the natives to assist me in driving the sheep, leaving the two elder ones with the overseer, to aid in managing the pack-horses. As before we took two horses with us, one to carry our provisions and water, and the other to ride upon in turn, the boy however, being young, and incapable of much fatigue, the greater portion of the walking naturally fell to my share. The day was cool and favourable, and we accomplished a stage of twenty-four miles; the afternoon became dark and lowering, and I fully expected rain, but towards sunset two or three drops fell, and the clouds cleared away. Our horses fed tolerably upon the little withered grass that we found, but the sheep were too tired to eat, and lay down; we put them therefore into a yard we had made for them for the night.