Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 5

Break up the encampment--Arrive at depot pool--Geological character of the country--Barometers out of order--Advance to reconnoitre--Ascend Termination Hill--Surprise native women--They abandon their children--Ineffectual search for water--Return towards Mount Deception--Broken character of the country--Find water--The Scott--Rejoin the party--Water all used at the depot--Embarrassing circumstances--Remove to the Scott--Reconnoitre in advance--Barren country--Table-topped elevations--Indications of the violent action of water--Meet natives--Reach Lake Torrens--The water salt--Obliged to return--Arrival at depot--Hostile demonstrations of the natives.

July 25.—To–DAY we broke up the camp, and commenced our labours in earnest, the men and the horses having had a rest of three weeks; the latter were in splendid condition and spirits, having eaten twenty–five bushels of oats, which had been sent up in the WATERWITCH. Every thing had been well and conveniently arranged, and the whole moved on with an order and regularity that was very gratifying.

I was very ill at starting, and remained so for some days after, but as I had already been twice over the ground, and as my native boy was able to act as guide to the party, my indisposition was not of so much consequence as it would have been under other circumstances. At times I was quite incapable of any exertion, and could not attend to any thing, being hardly able to sit upon my horse for half an hour together. From the 25th to the evening of the 30th, we were engaged in travelling from Mount Arden to Depot Pool, by the same line of route by which myself and the native boy had returned from our exploration. In our progress we noticed many traces of natives around us, and saw many native fires among the hills; the people themselves did not, however, appear.

By a little trouble in examining the watercourses before encamping, we were generally able to procure water for our horses, at some distance among the hills; and we were usually fortunate enough to obtain tolerable food for them also. The grass, it is true, was generally scanty, or dry; but we found a succulent plant of the geranium tribe, bearing a small blue flower, and growing where the channels of the watercourses spread out in the plains, in the greatest abundance, and in the wildest luxuriance; of this the horses were extremely fond, and it appeared to keep them in good condition and spirits.
July 30.—The geological formation of the country we had passed through, consisted in the higher ranges of an argillaceous rock, of quartz, or of ironstone. Upon some of the hills the small loose stones had a vitrified appearance—in others they looked like the scoria of a furnace, and appeared to be of volcanic origin, but nowhere did I observe the appearance of anything like a crater. In the lower or front hills the rock was argillaceous, of a hard slaty nature, and inclined at an angle of about 45 degrees from the horizontal. This formation was frequently traversed by dykes of grey limestone of a very hard texture.

Upon watering the horses at the hole in the rock, I was much disappointed to find that they had already sunk it eighteen inches, and now began to fear that it would not last them so long as I had anticipated, and that I should still be obliged to cross over the hills to the very rocky channel where I had found permanent water on the 15th of July. This I was desirous, if possible, to avoid, both from the difficult nature of the road by which that water must be reached, and from the circumstance that it was going so much out of our way into an all but impracticable country, and that consequently, when we did move on again to the north, we should be obliged to come all the way back again over the same bad road to gain the open country under Flinders range, where alone we could hope to make any progress with the drays.
July 31.—Having remained all day in camp to rest the party, I found that the horses had again made a great diminution in the depth of the water in the rock, I therefore had the drays all prepared in the evening, intending to move away to the other water–course in the morning; but the next day the horses had unfortunately strayed, and it was late before they were brought up, so that we could not get away. Upon watering them when they arrived, I found that less impression was made upon the water than on the previous days; and after an anxious consultation with my overseer, I decided upon leaving the party in camp at Depot Pool until I could reconnoitre further north and return.
August 1.—To prevent any difficulties during my absence, in the event of the water failing in the rocky hole, I sent the native boy to shew the overseer the place where the permanent water was, and gave him instructions to move the party thither if he should find it necessary; but not until their safety absolutely required it, or before he had fully ascertained that no water was to be procured by digging in the bed of any of the adjoining watercourses. During his absence, I employed myself busily in getting ready for another push to the north with the native boy to search for a new depot, as in a country so difficult and embarrassing, it was quite impracticable to move on the party until after having previously ascertained where they could be taken to with safety. Upon examining the barometers to–day, I was much concerned to find that they were both out of order and useless; the damp had softened the glue fastening the bags of leather which hold the quicksilver, and the leathers that were glued over the joints of the cisterns, and so much of the mercury had escaped, before I was aware of it, that I found all the previous observations valueless. I emptied the tubes and attempted to refill them, but in so doing I unfortunately broke one of them, and the other I could not get repaired in a satisfactory manner, not being able, after all my efforts, to get rid of some small air bubbles that would intrude, in spite of every care I could exercise.
August 2.—Leaving early, I took with me a native boy, and a man on horseback, leading a pack–horse, to carry water, as I could not but be apprehensive, lest we might find none in the country into which we were advancing. In following down the Depot watercourse to the plains, we found a fire where the natives had encamped the previous night. This surprised us, because we were not aware that there were any so immediately in our vicinity. It however shewed us the necessity of vigilance and circumspection in our future movements.

Steering for the most western point of Mount Deception range, until we opened one still more distant to the north–west, and which I named Termination Hill, we kept pushing on through barren stony plains, without grass or shrubs, and arrived late in the afternoon upon a large watercourse with gum–trees, but could find no water in its bed. Near it, however, in the plains, we were fortunate enough to discover a puddle of rain water, and at once halted for the night, though the feed was indifferent. We had travelled twenty–eight miles, and the pack–horse carrying twelve gallons of water, was considerably fatigued. At the puddle, two teal were seen, which indicated the existence of a larger body of water somewhere in the neighbourhood, but our efforts to find it were unsuccessful.