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Edward John Eyre - Vol 2 - Ch 4

Go on Board the Mississippi — Wet Weather — Visit Lucky Bay — Interview with Natives — Wylie Understands Their Language — Get the Horses Shod — Prepare to Leave the Vessel — Kindness and Liberality of Captain Rossiter — Renew Journey to the Westward — Fossil Formation Still Continues — Salt Water Streams and Lakes — A Large Salt River — Character Of the Country.

June 18

June 18. — During the night heavy showers had fallen, and in the oilskins we caught as much water as sufficed for our tea. After breakfast we proceeded onwards, and at a little more than three miles came to the borders of a large salt lake, lying southwest and north-east, and being one of two noted by Captain Flinders as having been copied into his map from a French chart. Following the borders of the lake for a mile we found abundance of fresh water under the banks by which it was inclosed, and which, judging from the rushes and grasses about it, and the many traces of native encampments, I imagine to be permanent. The lake itself was in a hollow sunk in the fossil formation, which was now very clearly recognisable in the high banks surrounding the lake, and which varied from sixty to a hundred and fifty feet in elevation, and were generally pretty steep towards the shore. The day being fine I halted at this place to re-arrange the loads of the horses and take bearings.

A year had now elapsed since I first entered upon the Northern Expedition. This day twelve months ago I had left Adelaide to commence the undertaking, cheered by the presence and good wishes of many friends, and proudly commanding a small but gallant party — alas, where were they now? Painful and bitter were the thoughts that occupied my mind as I contrasted the circumstances of my departure then with my position now, and when I reflected that of all whose spirit and enterprise had led them to engage in the undertaking, two lone wanderers only remained to attempt its conclusion.

June 17

June 17. — A little before daylight it commenced raining, and continued showery all day, and though we got wet several times, we experienced great comfort from the warm clothing we had obtained from Captain Rossiter. Upon ascending the hills, above our camp, which confined the waters of the little stream we were upon, we could trace its course south-west by south, to a small lake lying in the same direction, and which it appeared to empty into. A second small lake was observable to the north-west of the first. Two and a half miles from our camp, we passed a granite elevation, near which, were many fresh swamps, permanently, I think, abounding in water and having much rich and grassy land around, of which the soil was a deep black, and but little mixed with sand. For the next three miles and a half, our route lay over a rich swampy grassy land, and we were literally walking all the way in water left by the rains; besides crossing in that distance two fresh water streams, running strongly towards the sea, and both emptying into small lakes seen under the coast ridges. The largest of these two was one yard and a half wide and a foot deep, and appeared of a permanent character. We now ascended an undulating and rather more elevated tract of country of an oolitic limestone formation, most luxuriantly clothed with the richest grass, and having several lakes interspersed among the hollows between the ridges. Near this we halted for the night under some of the coast sand-hills, after a day’s stage of twelve miles. We had splendid feed for our horses, but were without any water for ourselves, being unable to carry any with us, as the canteens were full of treacle. From our camp, a peak, near Cape le Grand, bore E. 33 degrees S.

June 16

June 16. — This morning, I found I had caught cold, and was very unwell. Upon leaving the encampment, we steered N. 30 degrees W. to clear a rocky hill, passing which, on our left at six miles, we changed the course to W. 10 degrees N. Three miles from the hill, we crossed a small stream of brackish water running very strongly towards the sea, and then halted for the day upon it, after a short stage. The country we had traversed in our route, still consisted of the same sandy plains and undulations, covered with low shrubs, heathy plants, grass and cabbage-trees, with here and there elevations of granite, and fresh water swamps: in and around which, the soil was black and very rich; very little wood was to be met with anywhere, and nothing that deserved the appellation of trees.

The country, inland, appeared to rise gradually, but did not seem to differ in character and features from that we were traversing.

June 15

June 15. — Early this morning the boat came on shore for me, and I went on board to take a farewell breakfast, in the Mississippi, and to wish good bye to her kind-hearted people. At eight I landed with the Captain, got up my horses and loaded them, a matter of some little time and trouble, now my stock of provisions and other things was so greatly augmented; in addition too to all I had accumulated before, the Captain insisted now upon my taking six bottles of wine, and a tin of sardines.

Having received a few letters to be posted at Albany for France, I asked the Captain if there was anything else I could do for him, but he said there was not. The only subject upon which he was at all anxious, was to ascertain whether a war had broken out between France and England or not. In the event of this being the case, he wished me not to mention having seen a French vessel upon the coast, and I promised to comply with his request.

After wishing my kind host good bye, and directing Wylie to lead one of the horses in advance, I brought up the rear, driving the others before me. Once again we had a long and arduous journey before us, and were wending our lonely way through the unknown and untrodden wilds. We were, however, in very different circumstances now, to what we had been in previous to our meeting with the French ship. The respite we had had from our labours, and the generous living we had enjoyed, had rendered us comparatively fresh and strong. We had now with us an abundance, not only of the necessaries, but of the luxuries of life; were better clothed, and provided against the inclemency of the weather than we had been; and entered upon the continuation of our undertaking with a spirit, an energy, and a confidence, that we had long been strangers to.

From the great additional weight we had now to carry upon the horses, we were again obliged to give up riding even in turn, and had both to walk. This was comparatively of little consequence, however, now we were so well provided with every thing we could require, and the country appeared to be so well watered, that we could arrange our stages almost according to our own wishes.

Steering to the north-west we passed over a sandy country, covered with low heathy plants, and grasstrees, and having granite elevations scattered over its surface at intervals. Under these hills fresh water swamps and native wells were constantly met with, and at one of them we encamped for the night, after a stage of about four miles.

During the day, we passed a variety of beautiful shrubs, and among them were many different kind of Banksias, one was quite new to me, and had a scarlet flower, which was very handsome. The fossil formation still constituted the geological character of the country, most of the lower ridges of rock intervening between the various hills of granite, exhibiting shells in great abundance. In the more level parts, the surface was so coated over with sand, that nothing else could be seen. I have no doubt, however, that the whole of the substrata would have been found an uninterrupted continuation of the tertiary deposit.

At night I observed native fires about a mile from us, in a direction towards the sea; but the natives did not come near us, nor was I myself anxious to come into communication with them whilst my party was so small.

The evening had set in with steady rain, which continuing with little intermission during the night, wet us considerably.

June14

On the 14th, I landed the stores, to arrange and pack them ready for the journey. They consisted of forty pounds of flour, six pounds of biscuit, twelve pounds of rice, twenty pounds of beef, twenty pounds of pork, twelve pounds of sugar, one pound of tea, a Dutch cheese, five pounds of salt butter, a little salt, two bottles of brandy, and two tin saucepans for cooking; besides some tobacco and pipes for Wylie, who was a great smoker, and the canteens filled with treacle for him to eat with rice. The great difficulty was now, how to arrange for the payment of the various supplies I had been furnished with, as I had no money with me, and it was a matter of uncertainty, whether the ship would touch at any of the Australian colonies. Captain Rossiter however, said that he had some intention of calling at King George’s Sound, when the Bay whaling was over, and as that was the place to which I was myself going, I gave him an order upon Mr. Sherratt, who had previously acted as my agent there in the transaction of some business matters in 1840. To this day, however, I have never learnt whether Captain Rossiter visited King George’s Sound or not.

In arranging the payment, I could not induce the Captain to receive any thing for the twelve days’ that we had been resident in the ship, nor would he allow me to pay for some very comfortable warm clothing, which he supplied me with, both for myself and Wylie. Independently too of the things which I had drawn from the ship’s stores, Captain Rossiter generously and earnestly pressed me to take any thing that I thought would be serviceable to me from his own private stock of clothes. The attention and hospitality shewn me, during my stay on board the vessel, and the kindness and liberality which I experienced at my departure, will long be remembered by me with feelings of gratitude. In the evening I slept on shore, and got every thing ready for commencing my labours again in the morning.