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Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 17

Horses Begin to Knock Up — Compelled to Follow Round the Beach — Tinor Pony Unable to Proceed — Gloomy Prospects — Overseer Begins to Despond — Two More Horses Left Behind — Fragments of Wrecks — Water All Consumed — Collect Dew — Change in Character of Country — Dig a Well — Procure Water — Native and Family Visit Us — Overseer Goes Back for Baggage — Disastrous Termination of His Journey — Situation and Prospects of the Party.

April 2

April 2. — Another severe cold frosty night made us fully sensible that the winter was rapidly closing in upon us, notwithstanding the ill-provided and unprotected state we were in to encounter its inclemencies. Our well had again tumbled in, and gave us a good deal of trouble, besides, each successive clearing out deepened it considerably, and this took us to a level where the brackish water mixed with the fresh; from this cause the water was now too brackish to be palatable, and we sunk another well apart from that used for the horses, at which to procure any water we required for our own use. During the afternoon I shot a wallabie behind the camp, but the place being densely scrubby, and the animal not quite dead, I did not get it.

April 3

On the 3rd, I sent the overseer out in one direction and I went myself out in another, to examine the country and try to procure wallabies for food. We both returned late, greatly fatigued with walking through dense scrubs and over steep heavy sand ridges, but without having fired a shot.

April 4

Our mutton (excepting the last sheep) being all used on the 4th, we were reduced to our daily allowance of half a pound of flour each, without any meat.

April 5

On the 5th, the overseer and one of the native boys got ready to go back for some of the stores and other things we had abandoned, forty-seven miles away. As they were likely to have severe exercise, and to be away for four days, I gave them five pounds extra of flour above their daily allowance, together with the wallabie which I had shot, and which had not yet been used; they drove before them three horses to carry their supply of water, and bring back the things sent for.

As soon as they were gone, with the assistance of the two native boys who were left, I removed the camp to the white sand-drifts, five miles further west. Being anxious to keep as near to the grass as I could, I commenced digging at some distance away from where the natives procured their water, but at a place where there were a great many rushes. After sinking to about seven feet, I found the soil as dry as ever, and removing to the native wells, with some little trouble opened a hole large enough to water all the horses. The single sheep gave us a great deal of trouble and kept us running about from one sand hill to another, until we were tired out, before we could capture it; at last we succeeded, and I tied him up for the night, resolved never to let him loose again.

In the evening I noticed the native boys looking more woe-begone and hungry than usual. Heretofore, since our mutton was consumed, they had helped out their daily half-pound of flour, with the roasted roots of the gum-scrub, but to-day they had been too busy to get any, and I was obliged to give to each a piece of bread beyond the regular allowance. It was pitiable to see them craving for food, and not to have the power of satisfying them; they were young and had large appetites, and never having been accustomed to any restraint of this nature, scarcity of food was the more sensibly felt, especially as they could not comprehend the necessity that compelled us to hoard with greater care than a miser does his gold, the little stock of provisions which we yet had left.

April 6

April 6. — The severe frost and intense cold of last night entirely deprived me of sleep, and I was glad when the daylight broke, though still weary and unrefreshed. After clearing out the well, and watering the horses, I sent one of the boys out to watch them, and gave the other the gun to try and shoot a wallabie, but after expending the only two charges of slugs I had left, he returned unsuccessful. At night we all made up our supper with the bark of the young roots of the gum-scrub. It appears to be extensively used for food by the natives in this district, judging from the remnants left at their encamping places. The bark is peeled off the young roots of the eucalyptus dumosa, put into hot ashes until nearly crisp, and then the dust being shaken off, it is pounded between two stones and ready for use. Upon being chewed, a farinaceous powder is imbibed from between the fibres of the bark, by no means unpleasant in flavour, but rather sweet, and resembling the taste of malt; how far a person could live upon this diet alone, I have no means of judging, but it certainly appeases the appetite, and is, I should suppose, nutritious.

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