July 16.—Tracing down the watercourse we were encamped on, to the junction before mentioned, I steered a little more to the north, to ascend a high stony range, from which I hoped to obtain a view to the eastward; but after considerable toil in climbing, and dragging our horses over loose rolling stones, which put them constantly in danger of falling back, I was not rewarded for the trouble I had taken: the view to the east was quite shut out by high rugged ranges of ironstone and quartz, whilst to the north, the hills appeared lower and more open.
It now became a matter of serious consideration, whether I should pursue my researches any farther at present. I was already about 120 miles away from my party, with barely provisions enough to last me back; and the country, in advance, appeared to be getting daily more difficult; added to this, the “WATERWITCH” was waiting at the head of Spencer’s Gulf for my return.
After reflecting on my position, I decided to rejoin my party without delay; and descending the range to the S. E., I steered for a large watercourse we had crossed in the morning; intending to trace it up, for the purpose of examining its branches. The bed of this watercourse, at first, was very wide, and lined with gum–trees; but as I advanced, I found its channel became contracted, and very rocky, the gum–trees disappearing, and giving place to the salt–water tea–tree. By nightfall, I was unable to proceed any further, owing to the large stones and rocks that interposed themselves. Retracing my steps, therefore, for a mile or two, to a little grass I had observed as I passed by, I bivouacked for the night, being, as well as the horses, quite knocked up. The native boy, who accompanied me, was equally fatigued; and we were both lame from walking across so rugged a country, over a great portion of which we found it quite impracticable to ride. Our stage could not have been less than twenty–five or twenty–six miles during the day, yet we had not met with a drop of water, even though we had high ranges, large watercourses, and huge gum–trees on every side of us. As usual, the traces of high floods were numerous; and the channels of these watercourses, confined as they are by precipitous ranges, must, at times, be filled by rapid and overwhelming torrents, which would collect there after heavy rains.
Some great progressive change appears to be taking place in the climate and seasons of this part of the country, as, in many of the watercourses, we found all the gum–trees either dying or dead, without any young trees growing up to replace them. The moisture which had promoted their growth, and brought them to maturity, existed no longer; and in many places, only the wreck of noble trees remained to indicate to the traveller what once had been the character of this now arid region. In other watercourses the gum–trees were still green and flourishing, and of giant growth; but we were equally unable to discover water in these,[Note 5: We had no means with us of digging—possibly moisture existed below the surface where the trees were so large and green.] as in those where the trees were decaying or withered.