Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 4

Make arrangements for getting up stores from the waterwitch—Leave the party—Salt watercourse—Mount Eyre—Aspect of the country—Lake Torrens—Return towards the hills—Native female—Saline character of the country—Mount Deception—Reach the eastern hills—Large watercourses—Water hole in a rock—Grassy but hilly country—Running stream—Ascend a range—Return homewards—Decay of trees in the watercourses—Shoot a kangaroo—Arrive at the depot—Bury stores—Make preparations for leaving—Send despatches to the vessel.

July 16

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.

July 17

July 17.—To–day we returned to our temporary camp, tracing up various branches of the water–courses as we went along, but without finding water. Many of the ranges in our route consisted of masses of ironstone, apparently containing a very large proportion of metal. In one place, I found a mineral which I took to be tin ore; the loss, however, of all the geological specimens I collected, after their arrival in Adelaide, has unfortunately put it now beyond my power to test any of the rocks or minerals, about which I was doubtful. As we encamped early, and I was desirous of recruiting the horses, I employed myself in taking an observation for latitude, whilst the black boy went out to look for an opossum. He succeeded in bringing in a fine large one, which formed a welcome addition to our meagre fare. The nights were still very frosty.

July 18

July 18.—In travelling to “Depot Pool,” the native boy caught another opossum, and we again halted early in the day for the sake of resting the horses.

July 19

July 19.—Concealing among some rocks every thing we did not absolutely require, we descended towards the plains, searching as we went, for the most favourable line of road to them, for the drays, but at best the country was very rough and stony.

After clearing the hills, we made a stage of twenty–eight miles along the plains running under Flinders range, and at night encamped upon a channel coming out of it, where we obtained water, but very little grass for our horses.