Category: Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 9
Written by Edward John Eyre
November 3. — After seeing the party ready tomove on, I left Mr. Scott to conduct the dray, whilst I rode forward in advance to the depot near Streaky Bay, where I arrived early in the afternoon, and was delighted to find the party all well, and everything going on prosperously. They had expected me some time before and were looking out very anxiously for my arrival. The Waterwitch had arrived on the 29th of October, but the master did not communicate with my party before the 31st; so that until the last three days they had been quite ignorant of our movements, and uneasy at our so greatly exceeding the time originally fixed for rejoining them. Having sent back a man, and two fresh and strong horses to assist the dray, I reconnoitred once more our depot of 1839. Situated in the middle of some extensive grassy openings among the scrub, is a solid sheet of limestone of a very hard texture: in the centre of this rock is a small oblong opening, a foot deep and only just large enough to admit of a pint pot being dipped in it. This curious little hole contained water from five to seven inches in depth, the level of which was maintained as rapidly as a person could bale it out; this was our sole supply for ourselves and horses, but it was a never-failing one.
[Note 20: The water had not a pleasant flavour, as it was of a chalybeate nature; but in a country where water was scarce, it was invaluable. When I was here in 1839, it had even then this disagreeable taste, but now it was much worse, in consequence, probably, of the contaminating substance being washed off more abundantly than formerly from the rocks enclosing the reservoir by the rapid flow of water necessary to replace the large consumption of my party.]
The spring is situated in latitude 32 degrees 49 minutes 0 seconds S. and about three miles south-east from the most southerly bight of Streaky Bay. About one mile and a half to the west is another small hole of better flavoured water, but not so abundant in its supply.
I found all the horses in excellent condition, and one, a very fine mare of my own, had foaled about six weeks before. Around the camp were immense piles of oyster shells, pretty plainly indicating the feasting my men had enjoyed during my absence, whilst their strong and healthy appearance shewed how well such fare had agreed with them. The oysters were procured from the most southerly bight of Streaky Bay, on some mud banks about two or three hundred yards below low water mark, where they are found in immense numbers and of different sizes. The flavour of these oysters was excellent, and the smaller ones were of great delicacy. The men were in the habit of taking a cart down to the beach frequently, where, by wading up to their knees in the sea at low water, they were enabled to fill it. This supply lasted for two or three days.
Many drays might easily be loaded, one after the other, from these oyster beds. The natives of the district do not appear to eat them, for I never could find a single shell at any of their encampments. It is difficult to account for the taste or prejudice of the native, which guides him in his selection or rejection of particular kinds of food. What is eaten readily by the natives in one part of Australia is left untouched by them in another, thus the oyster is eaten at Sydney, and I believe King George’s Sound, but not at Streaky Bay. The unio or freshwater muscle is eaten in great numbers by all the natives of New South Wales and South Australia; but Captain Grey found that a Perth native, who accompanied him on one of his expeditions, would not touch this kind of food even when almost starving. Snakes are eaten by some tribes, but not by others; and so with many other kinds of food which they make use of.
About three o’clock, Mr. Scott arrived with the dray, after a long and harassing stage of twenty miles over a low, stony, and scrubby tract of country, between Mount Hall and Streaky Bay, and which extended beyond our track to the coast hummocks to the west. These latter appeared somewhat high, and under them we had seen many salt-water lakes from the summit of Mount Hall.
My party were now once more all assembled together, after having been separated for nearly seven weeks; during which, neither division knew what had befallen the other, and both were necessarily anxious to be reunited again, since, in the event of any mischance occurring to either, the other would have been placed in circumstances of much difficulty, if not of danger; and the whole object of the undertaking would have been frustrated.
The great delay caused by my having been obliged to send over from Port Lincoln to Adelaide for supplies, had thrown us very late in the season; the summer was rapidly advancing, the weather even now, being frequently intensely hot, whilst the grass was gradually drying up and losing its nourishment. Our sending to Adelaide had, however, obtained for us the valuable services of the Waterwitch to assist us in tracing round the desert line of coast to the north-west, and had enabled us to procure a larger and more varied supply of stores, than we could possibly have brought up from Port Lincoln in a single dray. We were now amply furnished with conveniences of every kind; and both men and horses were in good plight and ready to enter upon the task before them.