Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 8

Proceed to the westward—channel of communication between lake torrens and spencer’s gulf—Baxter’s range—Divide the party—Route towards Port Lincoln—Scrub—Fruitless search for water—Send dray back for water—Plundered by the natives—Return of dray—Dense scrub—Refuge rocks—Dense scrub—Salt creek—Mount Hill—Dense scrub—Large watercourse—Arrive at a station—Rich and grassy valleys—Character of Port Lincoln Peninsula—Unable to procure supplies—Engage a boat to send over to Adelaide—Buy sheep.

September 13.—UPON leaving the depot this morning I was obliged to leave behind a very large tarpaulin which we did not require, and which from the extra weight we had last night put upon the drays, we could not conveniently carry. Steering to the south–west we came at twelve miles to the head of Spencer’s Gulf, and crossed the channel connecting it with Lake Torrens. At this place it is not very wide, but its bed like that of the lake is soft and boggy, with salt water mixed with the mud. We had a good deal of difficulty in getting over it, and one of the drays having stuck fast, we had to unload it, carrying the things over on men’s backs. A few miles beyond this we halted for the night, where there was good grass for the horses and plenty of water in the puddles around us. We crossed principally during the day, a rather heavy sandy country, but were now encamped in plains of a firmer and better character for the drays.

September 14.—Travelling on through open plains with loose gravelly stones, lying on their surface, we passed to the south of a small table–topped hill, visible from Mount Arden, and very much resembling the fragments of table land that I had met with to the north. This however was somewhat larger than those, and though steep–sided as they were it did not disclose the same white strata of chalk and gypsum, its formation being more rocky and of rather a slaty character.

September 15.—Pushing on rapidly over extensive plains very similar to those we had already crossed, we arrived, after a long stage, under Baxter’s range, and encamped upon a small channel coming from it, with abundance of water and good grass. This range is high and rocky, rising abruptly out of the plains, and distinctly visible from Mount Arden, from which it is about fifty miles distant. Its formation is entirely conglomerate of rather a coarse description. Among its rugged overhanging steeps are many of the large red species of wallabie similar to those we had seen to the north at the Scott. Two of these we shot. The latitude of our camp at Baxter’s range was 32 degrees 40 minutes S.

September 16.—Remained in camp to–day to rest the horses and prepare for dividing the party, as from the great abundance of rain that had fallen, I no longer apprehended a scarcity of water on the route to Streaky Bay, and therefore decided upon sending my overseer across with the party, whilst I myself took a dray down direct to Port Lincoln, on the west side of Spencer’s Gulf, to obtain additional supplies, with the intention of joining them again at Streaky Bay.

Having spent some time in taking bearings from the summit of Baxter’s range, I examined all the channels and gorges coming from it, and in most of these I found water. I am of opinion however that in a very dry season, the water which I now found will be quite dried up, and especially in the largest of the watercourses, or the one upon which we were encamped. [Note 9: In October 1842, this was quite dry, but water was still found in holes in the rocks in the southernmost gorge, above the waterfall, at the base of which water was also procured by digging in the gravel.]

A little further south, there is a rocky ravine winding through a gorge and terminating in a waterfall, with a large pool of beautiful water at the base, and with many large and deep holes of water in the rocks above. In this ravine I imagine water might be procured at any period of the year, and I am confirmed in this opinion by the circumstance of three well beaten native roads, coming from different points of the compass, and all converging at this place. This is an important position for parties crossing to the westward, or going overland to Port Lincoln. Baxter’s range is the nearest point at which permanent water can be procured on the west side of the head of Spencer’s Gulf, as the Depot creek near Mount Arden is on the eastern. Having completed my examination of the range, and taken all my observations, I spent the remainder of the day in constructing a chart of my former route from Streaky Bay in 1839, and in writing out instructions for the overseer during my absence, as a guide for him in crossing to the westward.

September 17.—Placing under the charge of the overseer, two drays, seven of our best horses, all the sheep, one native boy, and two men, I saw him fairly started this morning, and wished him a speedy and prosperous journey. I had left with me one dray, five horses, one man, one native boy, and Mr. Scott; with fourteen days provision and forty gallons of water. Steering S. 25 degrees W. for sixteen miles, we halted for the night upon a patch of tolerable grass but without any water; I was consequently obliged to give a bucket of water to each of the horses out of the small stock which we had brought with us. The country we travelled through was low, level, and for the most part covered with salsolae, or brush, the latter in some places being very dense, and causing great fatigue to the horses in dragging the dray through it.