Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 18

Go Back with a Native — Spear Sting-Rays — Recover the Baggage — Cold Weather — Overseer Reconnoitres the Cliffs — Unfavourable Report — Difference of Opinion As to Best Plans for the Future — Kill a Horse for Food — Injurious Effects From Meat Diet — Native Boys Become Disaffected — They Steal Provisions — Native Boys Desert the Party — They Return Almost Starved — Party Proceed Onwards to the Westward — Cliffs of the Bight — Country Behind Them — Threatening Weather — Murder of the Overseer.

April 10. — FOUR days’ provisions having been given to each of the party, I took the King George’s Sound native with me to retrace, on foot, our route to the eastward. For the first ten miles I was accompanied by one of the other native boys, leading a horse to carry a little water for us, and take back the stores the overseer had buried at that point, when the second horse knocked up with him on the morning of the 9th. Having found the things, and put them on the horse, I sent the boy with them back to the camp, together with a large sting-ray fish which he had speared in the surf near the shore. It was a large, coarse, ugly-looking thing, but as it seemed to be of the same family as the skate, I did not imagine we should run any risk in eating it. In other respects, circumstances had broken through many scruples and prejudices, and we were by no means particular as to what the fish might be, if it were eatable.

Having buried our little keg of water until our return, the King George’s Sound native and myself pushed on for five miles further, and then halted for the night, after a day’s journey of fifteen miles. We now cooked some sting-ray fish (for the native with me had speared a second one,) and though it was coarse and dry, our appetites had been sharpened by our walk, and we thought it far from being unpalatable.

April 11. — Moving away long before daylight, we pushed steadily on, and about dusk arrived, after a stage of twenty-three miles, at the place where our stores were. I found a much greater weight here than I expected, and feared it would be quite impossible for us to carry the whole away. By the light of the fire, I threw out saddles, clothes, oil-skins, etc. that we did not absolutely require, and packing up the remainder, weighed a bundle of thirty-two pounds for myself to carry, and one of twenty-two for the native, who also had a gun to take. Our arrangements being completed for the morrow, we enjoyed our supper of sting-ray, and lay down for the night.

April 12. — To-day the weather was cloudy and sultry, and we found it very oppressive carrying the weight we had with us, especially as we had no water. By steady perseverance, we gained the place where our little keg had been buried; and having refreshed ourselves with a little tea, again pushed on for a few miles to a place where I had appointed the overseer to send a native to meet us with water. He was already there, and we all encamped together for the night, soon forgetting, in refreshing sleep, the fatigues and labours of the day.

The 13th was a dark cloudy day, with light rains in the morning. About noon we arrived at the camp, after having walked seventy-six miles in the last three days and a half, during great part of which, we had carried heavy weights. We had, however, successfully accomplished the object for which we had gone, and had now anxieties only for our future progress, the provisions and other stores being all safely recovered.

During my absence, I had requested the overseer to bake some bread, in order that it might be tolerably stale before we used it. To my regret and annoyance, I found that he had baked one third of our whole supply, so that it would be necessary to use more than our stated allowance, or else to let it spoil. It was the more vexing, to think that in this case the provisions had been so improvidently expended, from the fact of our having plenty of the sting-ray fish, and not requiring so much bread.

April 14. — Early this morning I sent the overseer, and one of the native boys, with three days’ provision to the commencement of the cliffs to the westward, visible from the sand-hills near our camp, in order that they might ascertain the exact distance they were from us, and whether any grass or water could be procured nearer to their base than where we were. After their departure, I attended to the horses, and then amused myself preparing some fishing lines to set off the shore, with a large stone as an anchor, and a small keg for a buoy. The day was, however, wild and boisterous; and in my attempts to get through the surf, to set the lines, I was thrown down, together with the large stone I was carrying, and my leg severely cut and bruised. The weather was extremely cold, too, and being without coat or jacket of any kind, I suffered severely from it.