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Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 9

Boy Speared by the Natives — Anomalous State of Our Relations with the Aborigines — Mr. Scott Sails for Adelaide — Dog Bought — Mr. Scott’s Return — Cutter Waterwitch Sent to Co-Operate — Send Her to Streaky Bay — Leave Port Lincoln with the Dray — Level Sandy Country Clothed with Brush and Shrubs — Salt Lakes — Mount Hope — Lake Hamilton — Stony Country — Lose a Dog — Better Country — Wedge-Hill — Lake Newland — A Boat Harbour — Mount Hall — Rejoin Party at Streaky Bay — Singular Spring — Character of Country — Beds of Oysters.

October 25

On the 25th I detained the party in camp, that I might get our sheep shorn, and send to Port Lincoln to inquire if there were any more letters for me by Dr. Harvey’s little boat, which was expected to arrive to-day. Mr. Scott, who rode into the settlement, returned in the afternoon.

October 26

October 26. — Sending the dray on under the guidance of the native boy, I rode with Mr. Scott up to Mr. White’s station to wish him good bye, and to make another effort to secure an additional dog or two; finding that he would not sell the noble mastiff I so much wished to have, I bought from him two good kangaroo dogs, at rather a high price, with which I hastened on after the drays, and soon overtook them, but not before my new dogs had secured two fine kangaroos. For the first few miles we crossed a low flat country, which afterwards became undulating and covered with dwarf scrub, after this we passed over barren ridges for about three miles, with quartz lying exposed on the surface and timbered by the bastard gum or forest casuarinae. We then descended to a level sandy region, clothed with small brush, and having very many salt lakes scattered over its surface; around the hollows in which these waters were collected, and occasionally around basins that were now dry, we found large trees of the gum, together with a few casuarinae. A very similar kind of low country appeared to extend far to the eastward and north-west.

Kangaroos were very numerous, especially near those hollows, that were surrounded by gum-trees, to which they retired for shelter during the heat of the day. We encamped at night in the midst of many of these salt lakes, without any water, but the grass was good. Our stage had been 25 miles upon a course of N. 25 degrees W. After watching the horses for a few hours, we tied them up for the night, not daring to trust them loose without water. A few natives had been seen during the day, but they ran away.

A singular feature attending the salt lakes, or the hollows where water had formerly lodged, was the existence of innumerable small stones, resembling biscuits or cakes in shape, perfectly circular and flat, but a little convexed in the upper surface, they were of various sizes, and appeared to consist of lime, being formed into their present shape by the action of water. Very similar ones have since been found in the volcanic region near Mount Gambier, on the southern coast of New Holland. From our present camp were seen before us to the north-west some low green looking ranges, lightly timbered, and promising a better country than we had hitherto met with.

October 27

October 27. — Having arrived at the hills, in about three miles, we found them abundantly grassed, but very rugged and rocky, of an oolitic limestone formation, with occasionally a light reddish soil covering the rock in the flats and valleys. Between these ranges and the sea, which was about a mile beyond them, were rather high sand hills, having a few stunted trees growing upon them, but otherwise destitute of vegetation. No water could be found, nor were there any watercourses from the hills, where we examined them.

Keeping under the east side of the ranges for a few miles, we crossed the main ridge to the westward, and after a stage of about thirteen miles, halted under a high hill, which I named Mount Hope, in my former journey. In a gorge of the range where the granite cropped out among the limestone, we found a spring of beautiful water, and encamped for the day. Mr. Scott and one of the native boys shot several pigeons, which came to the spring to drink in the evening in great numbers. In the meantime I had ascended the hill for a view, and to take angles. At a bearing of W. S. W. I set Point Drummond only a few miles distant from the camp, and between it and a bearing of S. W. was a considerable salt water lagoon on the eastern side of the sand hills of the coast; the surrounding country was low, level and scrubby. To the westward a great extent of dense scrub was visible, amid which were one or two elevations; and a salt lake, at a bearing of S. 60 degrees E. I made the latitude of this camp 34 degrees 7 minutes 16 seconds S. and the variation of the compass 4 degrees 10 minutes E.

October 28

October 28. — Travelling onwards for four miles, we passed a fine spring, situated in a swamp to our left, and at two more we came to a sheet of water, named Lake Hamilton, [Note 15: After my friend George Hamilton, Esq.] a large and apparently deep lake, with but a few hundred yards of a steep high bank, intervening between it and the sea; the latter was rapidly encroaching upon this barrier, and would probably in the course of a few years more force a way through, and lay under water a considerable extent of low country in that vicinity. Around the margin of the lake was abundance of good grass, but the bank between it and the sea was high and very rocky.

After leaving the lake we entered upon a succession of low grassy hills but most dreadfully stony, and at night encamped upon a swamp, after a stage of about sixteen miles. Here we procured abundance of good water by digging through the limestone crust, near the surface. The country around was still of the same character as before, but amidst the never-ceasing strata of limestone which everywhere protruded, were innumerable large wombat holes — yet strange to say not one of these was tenanted. The whole fraternity of these animals appeared to have been cut off altogether in some unaccountable manner, or to have migrated simultaneously to some other part. No emus or kangaroos were to be seen anywhere, and the whole region around wore a singularly wild and deserted aspect.

October 29

October 29. — Our route was again over low stony hills, but with rather better valleys between them; this kind of country appeared to extend from five to twelve miles inland from the coast, and then commenced the low level waste of barren scrubby land, which we so constantly saw to the eastward of us.

I had intended to make a short stage to-day to a spring, situated in the midst of a swamp, in latitude 33 degrees 46 minutes 35 seconds S., but having kept rather too far away from the coast, I missed it, and had to push on for twenty-three miles to a rich and very pretty valley, under a grassy range, lightly wooded with casuarinae. The soil was somewhat sandy, but clothed with vegetation; in holes in the rocks we procured abundance of water from a little valley near our camp, and in a swamp about a mile and a half north-east was a spring. Our stage was a long one, and the day being excessively hot, our horses, sheep, and dogs were nearly all knocked up. Of the latter two were unfortunately missing when we arrived at our halting ground; one came up afterwards, but the other could nowhere be found, though both had been seen not two miles away. The missing dog [Note 16 at end of para.], was the best of the two which I had purchased of Mr. White, and I felt sorry for a loss which it would be impossible for me to replace. Many native fires were seen to-day, and especially in the direction of a high bare-looking detached range to the north-east, named by me from its shape, Mount Wedge; none of these people were, however, seen, but a fire still burning was found where we encamped for the night.

[Note 16: Upon returning to Adelaide in 1841, I learnt that the dog had gone back all the way to Mr. White’s station, and as Mr. White wished to keep the animal, he returned the money he had received at his sale.]