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 23.—Leaving my party to rest, after the fatigue they had endured in forcing a way through the scrub, I set off after breakfast to reconnoitre our position at Refuge Rocks, and to take a series of angles. The granite elevation, under which we were encamped, I found to be one of three small hills, forming a triangle, about a mile apart from each other, and having sheets of granite lying exposed upon their summits, containing deep holes which receive and retain water after rains. The hill we were encamped under, was the highest of the three, and the only one under which there was a spring. [Note 10: This was dried up in October, 1842.] There was also better grass here than around either of the other two; it appeared, too, to be the favourite halting place of the natives, many of whose encampments still remained, and some of which appeared to have been in use not very long ago. The bearings from the hill we were under, of the other two elevations, which, with it, constitute the Refuge Rocks, were N. 15 degrees W. and W. 35 degrees N. Baxter’s range was still visible in the distance, appearing low and wedge–shaped, with the high end towards the east, at a bearing of N. 24 degrees E. In the western extreme it bore N. 22 degrees E. Many other hills and peaks were apparent in various directions, to all of which I took angles, and then returned to the tent to observe the sun’s meridian altitude for latitude. By this observation, I made the latitude 33 degrees 11 minutes 12 seconds S.; but an altitude of Altair at night only gave 33 degrees 10 minutes 6 seconds S.; probably the mean of the two, or 33 degrees 10 minutes 39 seconds S., will be very nearly the true position of the spring. From the summit of the hill I had been upon, many native fires were visible in the scrub, in almost every direction around. At one time I counted eleven different fires from the smokes that were ascending, and some of which were very near us. Judging from these facts, the natives appeared to be numerous in this part of the country, and it would be necessary to be very cautious and vigilant after the instance I had recently met with of their cunning and daring.

September 24.—I still kept my party in camp to refresh the horses, and occupied myself during the morning in preparing a sketch of my route to the north, to send to the Governor from Port Lincoln. In the afternoon, I searched for a line of road for our drays to pass, on the following day, through the scrubby and sandy country, which still appeared to continue in every direction.

September 25.—Leaving Refuge Rocks, at a course of S. 37 degrees W., we passed over a wretched country, consisting principally of heavy sandy ridges, very densely covered with scrub, and giving our horses a severe and fagging day’s work to get the dray along for only twelve miles. I then halted, as we were fortunate enough to find an opening in the scrub, with good grass. Searching about our encampment, I found in a small valley at one end of the little plain, a round hole, dug by the natives, to catch the drainage from the slope above it. There were two or three quarts of water in this hole when we discovered it; but by enlarging it, we managed to fill a bucket once every hour from the water which drained into it. This enabled us to save, to some extent, the water we had in our casks, at the same time that all the horses had as much as they could drink. I took angles from the camp to all the hills in sight, and at night made the latitude of the tent 33 degrees 18 minutes 34 seconds S. by an altitude of a Cygnus.

September 26.—After travelling for thirteen miles at S. 40 degrees W., I took a set of angles from a low scrubby hill, being the last opportunity I should have of setting many of the heights, of which I had obtained bearings from former camps. I then changed our course to S. 27 degrees W. for five miles, and halted for the night where there was good grass. We could find no water during the day; I had, consequently, to give the horses some out of the casks. The country we traversed had altered greatly in character, and though still heavy and sandy, it was a white coarse gritty sand, instead of a fine red; and instead of the dense cucalyptus scrub, we had now low heathy shrubs which did not present much impediment to the progress of the dray, and many of which bore very beautiful flowers. Granite was frequently met with during the day, but no water could be found. Our latitude by an altitude of a Aquilae was 33 degrees 30 minutes S.

September 27.—Continuing our last night’s course for about seven miles, we passed through the densest scrub I had yet met with; fortunately, it was not growing upon a sandy soil, and we got tolerably well through it, but the horses suffered severely. Upon emerging from the brush, I noticed a little green looking valley, about a mile off our track, and sent Mr. Scott to see if there was water there. Upon his return, he reported that there was, and I at once moved down to it, to rest the horses after the toil of breaking through the scrub. The day was not far advanced when we halted, and I was enabled to obtain the sun’s altitude at noon, making the latitude of the camp 33 degrees 34 minutes 25 seconds S. There was good grass for the horses, and abundance of water left by the rains in the hollows of a small watercourse, running between two scrubby ridges.