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Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 3

Spring hill--An aged native deserted by his tribe--Rich and extensive plains--Surprise a party of natives--Rocky river--crystal brook--Flinders range--The deep spring--Myall ponds--Rocky water holes--Dry watercourse--Reach the depot near mount arden--Prepare for leaving the party--Black swans pass to the north--Arrival of the waterwitch

July 2

July 2.—We moved on for 15 miles over extensive plains, covered principally with Rhagodia, and in some places stony, and halted early in the afternoon at a large dry watercourse, coming out from Flinders range. Though there was no water in this channel below the base of the hill, on sending a party a mile and a half up it with spades and buckets, we got, by digging in the gravelly bed, as much as sufficed for ourselves and horses. At this camp I observed the variation to be 7 degrees 24 minutes E.

July 3

July 3.—During the night our horses had rambled a little, so that we could not get away early, and as we had a long stage before us we were obliged to push on to a late hour. At dark we arrived at my former depot near Mount Arden, and took up our old position in the dry bed of the watercourse, at the base of the hills from which it emanated; but we had still to send the horses a mile and a half further up the gorge, over a hilly and stony road, before we could either get water for ourselves or them; it was therefore very late when the men returned, and the whole party were a good deal fatigued, having travelled from Adelaide to Mount Arden in 14 days, (deducting the two days in camp at the Light.) I now ascertained the latitude of the depot to be 32 degrees 14 minutes S.

July 4

July 4.—Having mustered the horses this morning, I ordered an arrangement to be entered into for taking them to the water twice a day, and bringing down the supply required for the use of the party. Each person undertook this duty in turn, and thus the labour was divided. After breakfast I went up myself to examine the state of the water and found great abundance in its bed; there were strong traces of recent and high flooding, the drift timber being lodged among the bushes several feet above the ordinary channel. The grass I was sorry to find was rather old and dry, but still there was a very fair supply of it, a point of great importance to us at a time when it was necessary to detain the whole party for two or three weeks in depot, to enable me to examine the country to the north; my former experience having convinced me that it would be dangerous to attempt to push on, before ascertaining where grass and water could be procured.

We had now travelled upwards of eighty miles under Flinders range, from Crystal brook to Mount Arden, and hitherto the character of that range had varied but little. High, rocky, and barren, it rises abruptly from the plains, and so generally even is the country at its base, that we had no difficulty in keeping our drays within a mile or two of it. This was convenient, because we had not far to leave our line of route, when compelled to send up among the ravines for water. The slopes of Flinders range are steep and precipitous to the westward, and composed principally of an argillaceous stone or grey quartz, very hard and ringing like metal when struck with a hammer.

There was no vegetation upon these hills, excepting prickly grass, and many were coated over so completely with loose stones that from the steepness of the declivity it was unsafe, if not impossible to ascend them. At one or two points in our routs I climbed up to the top of high summits, but was not rewarded for my toil, the prospect being generally cheerless and barren in the extreme, nor did the account given by Mr. Brown of his ascent of Mount Brown in March 1802, tempt me to delay a day to enable me to view the uninteresting prospect he had seen from the summit of that hill—by far the highest peak in this part of Flinders range.

Having decided upon ridingon a head of my party to reconnoitre, as soon as the WATERWITCH should arrive, I at once commenced my preparations, and made the overseer put new shoes on the horses I intended to take with me. The very stony character of the country we had been lately traversing and the singularly hard nature of the stone itself, had caused the shoes to wear out very rapidly, and there was hardly a horse in the teams that did not now require new shoes; fortunately we had brought a very large supply with us, and my overseer was a skilful and expeditious farrier. At dusk a watch was set upon one of the hills near us, to look out for signals from the WATERWITCH in the direction of Spencer’s gulf, but none were seen.

July 4

July 4.—Whilst writing in my tent this evening, my attention was attracted by the notes of swans, and upon going out I perceived a flight of several of the black species coming up from the southward; when they had got over the tents, they appeared to be alarmed and wheeled to the eastward, but soon returning, they took a nearly due northerly course. This was encouraging for us, and augured well for the existence of some considerable body of water inland, but we hoped and expected that a few days would perhaps give us a clue to the object of their flight.

Sunday, July 5

Sunday, July 5.—A day of rest to all. In the afternoon I employed myself in writing out instructions for the overseer during my absence, as also for the master of the WATERWITCH, for whose arrival we now kept a constant and anxious look out. In the evening about eight o’clock the sentinel on the hill reported a fire on the opposite side of Spencer’s gulf. Upon receiving this intelligence I had blue lights exhibited, and rockets fired, which in a little time were replied to by rockets from the gulf and the lighting up of a second fire on shore assuring me at once of the safe arrival of the cutter.