- Category: John McDouall Stuart - Fifth Expedition
- Written by John McDouall Stuart
- Hits: 1210
Monday, 6th May, Watson Creek, Ashburton Range. Started at 8.20 a.m., course 300 degrees, to cross Sturt Plain. At eleven miles arrived at the hill which I saw from Ashburton range. It turned out to be the banks of what was once a fresh-water lake; the water-wash is quite distinct. It had small iron and limestone gravel, with sand and a great number of shells worn by the sun and atmosphere to the thinness of paper, plainly indicating that it is many years since the water had left them. Judging from the water-marks, the lake must have been about twelve feet deep in the plain. The eucalyptus is growing here. We then proceeded over another open part of it, for about two miles, when the dwarf eucalypti again commenced, and continued until we camped at twenty-one miles; the horses quite worn out. This has been the hardest and most fatiguing day's work we have had since starting from Chambers Creek; for, from the time we left in the morning until we camped, we have had nothing but a succession of rotten ground, with large deep holes and cracks in it, caused at a former period by water, into which the poor horses have been constantly falling the whole day, running the risk of breaking their legs and our necks, the grass being so long and thick that they could not possibly see them before they were into them. I had a very severe fall into one of these holes; my horse came right over and rolled nearly on top of me. I was fortunate enough to escape with little injury. Some of the shells resemble the cockle shell, but are much longer, many of them being three or four inches long; the others are of the shape of periwinkles, but six times as large. Both sorts are scattered over the plain, which is completely matted with grass. The soil is a dark rich alluvial, and judging from the cracks and holes, some of which are of considerable depth, they are splendid plains, but not a drop of surface water could we see upon them, nor a single bird to indicate that there is any. It was my intention at starting to have gone on thirty miles, but I find it quite impossible for the horses to do more; it would be madness to take them another day over such a country, when from the highest tree we can see no change. If I were to go another day and be without water, I should never be able to get one of the horses back, and in all probability should lose the lives of the whole party. If I could see the least chance of finding water, or a termination of the plain, I would proceed and risk everything. I see there is no hope of my reaching the river by this course. I believe this gum plain to be a continuation of the one I met with beyond the Centre, and that it may continue to the banks of the Victoria. The features of the country are nearly the same. The absence of all birds has a bad appearance. Day very hot. Wind, south-east. Latitude, 17 degrees 49 minutes.