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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.

August 8

August 8.—The horses having rambled a little this morning it was rather late before we got away, I had, however, made up my mind to advance at all risks, and we accordingly travelled sixteen miles to the N. W.; halting without any water upon the large watercourse emanating from Mount Deception; there was no grass either, and we were consequently obliged to tie up our horses for the night.

August 9

August 9.—The sheep had broken out of their yard, and could not be found this morning; so sending the party on with the native boy as a guide, I remained behind myself with the overseer, to search for them; they were soon found, and we moved on after the drays. In going up the watercourse I again found a native fire, where natives had been encamped within a mile of us during the night, without our being aware of it; so difficult is it always to know the proximity of these children of the wilds.

Having overtaken the party, I conducted them to The Scott, at which we arrived early in the day, though the distance could not be less than 20 miles. At night a party of natives were seen near, but did not come up to us.

August 10

August 10.—To day I prepared for another exploration to the N. W. and had all our casks and kegs new coopered and filled with water, to make them water tight. I found it necessary also to have our horses new shod, which was the third set of shoes they had required in less than two months, in consequence of the hard and stony roads over which we had travelled. The natives were again encamped near us at night, but did not come up.

August 11

August 11.—Leaving directions for the overseer to dig for water during my absence, I took a native boy and one man driving a cart loaded with water; we had mustered all the casks and kegs in the party, holding altogether 65 gallons, and to draw this I had our three best draught horses yoked to the light cart, being determined to push as far as possible to the N. W. before I returned. At first we passed over a good road but stony, then over heavy red sand ridges, and at night encamped in a gorge coming from Termination Hill, where we had excellent feed for the horses, but no water. The traces of natives were numerous and recent, and I imagine they must obtain their supply of water at puddles in the plains, but we could find none at present. The weather was very hot and the flies excessively annoying, even at this early period of the year. We gave each of the horses three gallons of water out of the kegs, after which they fed well; the hills, as we advanced were getting lower, and the sandy ridges now wound close under them, and in some instances even among them; still there were many birds around us, amongst which cockatoo parrots were very numerous. Our stage was about 23 miles.

August 12

August 12.—Steering to the N. W. to a low range (the highest summit of which I named Mount North–west,) we just kept far enough in the plains to intercept the watercourses from the hills where they spread into the level country, and by this means we got excellent feed for our horses; generally the same rich succulent herbage I have mentioned before, occasionally mixed with wild oats. It was only in places of this description that we could expect to find anything for our horses. In the plains or on the hills there was not a blade of of anything green; at night we encamped upon a small dry channel with tolerable feed, but no water, and we again gave each horse three gallons from our kegs.

The country we were traversing as yet under–went no alteration, the only difference being, that the hills were getting lower and the watercourses less numerous, and both apparently without water; the sand ridges came more in among the hills, and the dry beds of small salt lakes were often met with; the salsolae were more abundant, but the traces of natives were now less frequent; whilst those we fell in with seemed for the most part to have been left during the wet season. The rock formation still continued the same, quartz, ironstone, slate, and grey limestone, with saline crusts peeping above the ground in many places in the lower levels; the sky was cloudy and threatened rain, but none fell: our stage was 18 miles.