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.

October 3.—Leaving our horses to enjoy the good quarters we had selected for them, and a respite from their labours, Mr. Scott and I walked across the range into Port Lincoln, not a little surprising the good people there, who had not heard of our coming, and who imagined us to be many hundreds of miles away to the north. Calling upon Dr. Harvey, the only Government officer then at the settlement, I learnt with regret that it was quite impossible for me to procure the supplies I required in the town, whilst there were no vessels in the port, except foreign whalers, who were neither likely to have, nor be willing to part with the things I should require. What to do under such circumstances was rather a difficult question, and my principal hope was that some small coasting vessel might arrive in the course of a few days, or if not, I might try to hire a whale boat from one of the whaling vessels, and send her on to Adelaide. Dr. Harvey had a small open boat of four or five tons, but he did not seem willing to let her go; and unless I could communicate with Adelaide, flour was the only article I could procure, and that not from the stores in the town, but from a small stock belonging to the Government, which had been sent over to meet any emergency that might arise in so isolated a place. This was placed under the charge of Dr. Harvey, who, on behalf of the Government, kindly offered to let me have what I required, on condition that I would replace the same quantity, by the first opportunity.

Having made arrangements for a supply of fresh meat and a few vegetables during my stay, I walked out to examine the settlement. I found many neat cottages and other improvements since I had been here in 1839; and there were also a few gardens commenced, some of which were in a state of cultivation and appeared to be doing well. The population, however, had decreased, and many of the cottages were now unoccupied. Those who remained were principally persons who had lost everything, and who could not well get away, or who, on the other hand, had invested their property in the place, and could not leave it except at the sacrifice of almost everything they possessed. No one seemed to be doing well but the inn–keeper, and he owed his success chiefly to the custom or traffic of the foreign whalers who occasionally resorted here for refreshments. The stockholders, living a few miles from town, who ought to have succeeded the best, were getting dissatisfied at the many disadvantages which they laboured under, and the smallness of the community around them, and every thing wore a gloomy aspect.

October 4.—After breakfast, accompanied by Mr. Scott, I went to Port Lincoln to attend divine service; prayers were read by Dr. Harvey. The congregation was small but respectable, and apparently devout. After church, we accompanied Dr. Harvey home to dinner, and met the Captain and Surgeon of one of the French whalers in port; both of whom appeared intelligent, and superior to the class usually met with in such employments. After dinner we all walked down to the lagoon, west of Port Lincoln, where the land is of a rich black alluvial character, and well adapted for cultivation. Returning by our tents, Dr. Harvey and the Frenchmen took tea with us, and then returned to the settlement. In the course of our walk this afternoon, Dr. Harvey offered to put a temporary hatch over his boat, and send her to Adelaide for me for ten pounds, which offer I at once accepted, and Mr. Scott volunteered to go in her as supercargo.

October 5.—To–day I employed myself in writing letters, whilst the dray went to Port Lincoln for supplies. The few things I could get there were very dear, meat 1s. per pound, potatoes 9d. per pound, salt butter 2s. 6d., a small bag, with a few old cabbage stumps, five or six shillings, and other things in proportion.

October 6.—Went to town, accompanied by Mr. Scott to inspect the preparations of the little cutter he was to go to Adelaide in;—ordered all our horses to be shod, and several spare sets of shoes to be made to take up to the party at Streaky Bay. On our return we were accompanied by Mr. Smith, who kindly went with Mr. Scott to the station of a Mr. Brown, [Note 13: Since murdered by the natives.] about ten miles away, to select sheep to take with us on our journey. Mr. Scott purchased twelve at 2 pounds each, and brought them to the station; they were not very large, but were in fine condition.