Edward John Eyre - Vol 2 - Ch 5

Large Watercourse — Lake of Fresh Water — Heavy Rains — Reach Mount Barren — Salt Lakes and Streams — Barren Scrubby Country — Ranges Behind King George’s Sound Are Seen — Brackish Ponds — Pass Cape Riche — A Large Salt River — Chains of Ponds — Good Land — Heavily Timbered Country — Cold Weather — Fresh Lake — The Candiup River — King’s River — Excessive Rains — Arrival at King George’s Sound and Termination of the Expedition — Reception of Wylie by the Natives.

On the afternoon of the 26th of July I arrived in Adelaide, after an absence of one year and twenty-six days.

On the 13th July I wished my friends good bye, and in the afternoon went on board the Truelove to sail for Adelaide; whilst working out of harbour we were accompanied as long as any of the shore boats remained, by some of the natives of the place, who were most anxious to have gone with me to Adelaide. Wylie had given them so flattering an account of South Australia and its pleasures, that he had excited the envy and curiosity of the whole tribe; dozens applied to me to take them, and I really think I could have filled the ship had I been disposed; one or two, more persevering than the rest, would not be denied, and stuck close to the vessel to the last, in the hope that I might relent and take them with me before the pilot boat left, but upon this occurring, to their great discomforture, they were compelled to return disappointed.

July 7. — Getting up the horses early, we proceeded up the King’s river, with a view of attempting to cross, but upon sounding the depths in one or two places, I found the tide, which was rising, was too high; I had only the alternative, therefore, of waiting for several hours until the water ebbed, or else of leaving the horses, and proceeding on without them. Under all the circumstances, I decided upon the latter; the rain was still falling very heavily, and the river before us was so wide and so dangerous for horses, from its very boggy character, that I did not think it prudent to attempt to force a passage, or worth while to delay to search for a proper crossing place. There was good feed for the horses where they were, and plenty of water, so that I knew they would fare better by remaining than if they were taken on to the Sound; whilst it appeared to me more than probable that I should have no difficulty, whenever I wished to get them, to procure a guide to go for and conduct them safely across, at the proper crossing place.

Having turned our horses loose, and piled up our baggage, now again greatly reduced, I took my journals and charts, and with Wylie forded the river about breast high. We were soon on the other side, and rapidly advancing towards the termination of our journey; the rain was falling in torrents, and we had not a dry shred about us, whilst the whole country through which we passed, had, from the long-continued and excessive rains, become almost an uninterrupted chain of puddles. For a great part of the way we walked up to our ankles in water. This made our progress slow, and rendered our last day’s march a very cold and disagreeable one. Before reaching the Sound, we met a native, who at once recognised Wylie, and greeted him most cordially. From him we learnt that we had been expected at the Sound some months ago, but had long been given up for lost, whilst Wylie had been mourned for and lamented as dead by his friends and his tribe. The rain still continued falling heavily as we ascended to the brow of the hill immediately overlooking the town of Albany — not a soul was to be seen — not an animal of any kind — the place looked deserted and uninhabited, so completely had the inclemency of the weather driven both man and beast to seek shelter from the storm.

For a moment I stood gazing at the town below me — that goal I had so long looked forward to, had so laboriously toiled to attain, was at last before me. A thousand confused images and reflections crowded through my mind, and the events of the past year were recalled in rapid succession. The contrast between the circumstances under which I had commenced and terminated my labours stood in strong relief before me. The gay and gallant cavalcade that accompanied me on my way at starting — the small but enterprising band that I then commanded, the goodly array of horses and drays, with all their well-ordered appointments and equipment were conjured up in all their circumstances of pride and pleasure; and I could not restrain a tear, as I called to mind the embarrassing difficulties and sad disasters that had broken up my party, and left myself and Wylie the two sole wanderers remaining at the close of an undertaking entered upon under such hopeful auspices.

Arrival at King George’s Sound, J. Neill

Whilst standing thus upon the brow overlooking the town, and buried in reflection, I was startled by the loud shrill cry of the native we had met on the road, and who still kept with us: clearly and powerfully that voice rang through the recesses of the settlement beneath, whilst the blended name of Wylie told me of the information it conveyed. For an instant there was a silence still almost as death — then a single repetition of that wild joyous cry, a confused hum of many voices, a hurrying to and fro of human feet, and the streets which had appeared so shortly before gloomy and untenanted, were now alive with natives — men, women and children, old and young, rushing rapidly up the hill, to welcome the wanderer on his return, and to receive their lost one almost from the grave.

It was an interesting and touching sight to witness the meeting between Wylie and his friends. Affection’s strongest ties could not have produced a more affecting and melting scene — the wordless weeping pleasure, too deep for utterance, with which he was embraced by his relatives, the cordial and hearty reception given him by his friends, and the joyous greeting bestowed upon him by all, might well have put to the blush those heartless calumniators, who, branding the savage as the creature only of unbridled passions, deny to him any of those better feelings and affections which are implanted in the breast of all mankind, and which nature has not denied to any colour or to any race.

Upon entering the town I proceeded direct to Mr. Sherrats’, where I had lodged when in King George’s Sound, in 1840. By him and his family I was most hospitably received, and every attention shewn to me; and in the course of a short time, after taking a glass of hot brandy and water, performing my ablutions and putting on a clean suit of borrowed clothes, I was enabled once more to feel comparatively comfortable, and to receive the many kind friends who called upon me.

I feel great pleasure in the opportunity now afforded me of recording the grateful feelings I entertain towards the residents at Albany for the kindness I experienced upon this occasion. Wet as the day was, I had hardly been two hours at Mr. Sherrats before I was honoured by a visit from Lady Spencer, from the Government-resident, Mr. Phillips, and from almost all the other residents and visitors at the settlement, — all vying with each other in their kind attentions and congratulations, and in every offer of assistance or accommodation which it was in their power to render.

Finding that a vessel would shortly sail for Adelaide, I at once engaged my passage, and proceeded to make arrangements for leaving King George’s Sound.

To the Governor of the Colony, Mr. Hutt, I wrote a brief report of my journey, which was forwarded, with a copy both of my own and Wylie’s depositions, relative to the melancholy loss of my overseer on the 29th April. I then had my horses got up from the King’s river, and left them in the care of Mr. Phillips, who had in the most friendly manner offered to take charge of them until they recovered their condition and could be sold.

Wylie was to remain at the Sound with his friends, and to receive from the Government a weekly allowance of provisions, [Note 29: This was confirmed by Governor Hutt.] by order of Mr. Phillips; who promised to recommend that it should be permanently continued, as a reward for the fidelity and good conduct he had displayed whilst accompanying me in the desert.

July 6. — The morning still very wet and miserably cold. With Wylie acting as guide, we reached in eight miles, the Candiup river, a large chain of ponds, connected by a running stream, and emptying into a wide and deep arm of the sea, with much rich and fertile land upon its banks. The whole district was heavily timbered, and had good grass growing amongst the trees. From the very heavy rains that had fallen, we had great trouble in crossing many of the streams, which were swollen by the floods into perfect torrents. In the Candiup river I had to wade, cold and chill as I was, seven times through, with the water breast high, and a current that I with difficulty could keep my feet against, in order to get the horses over in safety; the only fordable place was at a narrow ledge of rocks, and with so strong a stream, and such deep water below the ledge, I dared not trust Wylie to lead any of them, but went back, and took each horse across myself. The day was bitterly cold and rainy, and I began to suffer severely from the incessant wettings I had been subject to for many days past.

Four miles beyond the Candiup river, we came to King’s river, a large salt arm of Oyster Harbour, here my friend Wylie, who insisted upon it that he knew the proper crossing place, took me into a large swampy morass, and in endeavouring to take the horses through, three of them got bogged and were nearly lost, and both myself and Wylie were detained in the water and mud for a couple of hours, endeavouring to extricate them. At last we succeeded, but the poor animals were sadly weakened and strained, and we were compelled to return back to the same side of the river, and encamp for the night, instead of going on to King George’s Sound as I had intended!

Fortunately there was tolerable grass, and fresh water lay every where about in great abundance, so that the horses would fare well, but for ourselves there was a cheerless prospect. For three days and nights, we had never had our clothes dry, and for the greater part of this time, we had been enduring in full violence the pitiless storm — whilst wading so constantly through the cold torrents in the depth of the winter season, and latterly being detained in the water so long a time at the King’s river, had rendered us rheumatic, and painfully sensitive to either cold or wet. I hoped to have reached Albany this evening, and should have done so, as it was only six miles distant, if it had not been for the unlucky attempt to cross King’s river. Now we had another night’s misery before us, for we had hardly lain down before the rain began to fall again in torrents. Wearied and worn-out as we were, with the sufferings and fatigues of the last few days, we could neither sit nor lie down to rest; our only consolation under the circumstances being, that however bad or inclement the weather might be, it was the last night we should be exposed to its fury.

July 5. — Another rainy day, and so excessively cold that we were obliged to walk to keep ourselves at all warm; we spent a miserable time, splashing through the wet underwood, and at fifteen miles we passed a fresh water lake, in a valley between some hills. This Wylie recognised as a place he had once been at before, and told me that he now knew the road well, and would act as guide, upon which I resigned the post of honour to him, on his promising always to take us to grass and water at night. Two miles and a half beyond the lake, we came to a fresh water swamp, and a mile beyond that to another, at which we halted for the night, with plenty of water, but very little grass. During the day, we had been travelling generally through a very heavily timbered country.

At night the rain set in again, and continued to fall in torrents at intervals; we got dreadfully drenched, and suffered greatly from cold and want of rest, being obliged to stand or walk before the fire, nearly the whole night.