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John McDouall Stuart - Fifth Expedition

JOURNAL OF MR. STUART'S FIFTH EXPEDITION. FROM NOVEMBER, 1860, TO SEPTEMBER, 1861.

Tuesday, 5th March, The Finke.

Tuesday, 5th March, The Finke. Started at 8.5 a.m., bearing 345 degrees, for the Hugh, with Thring and Lawrence. On arriving there found the water nearly all gone, only a little in a well dug by the natives; cleared it out, but it took us until 12 p.m. to water the four horses. At three miles further, we passed round a high conspicuous table hill, having a slanting and shelving front to the south; this I have named Mount Santo, after Philip Santo, Esquire, M.P. The country passed over to-day has been sand hills, with spinifex, grassy plains, with mulga and other shrubs, and occasionally low table-topped hills, composed of sand, lime, and ironstone, also the hard whitish flinty rock; kangaroo plentiful, but very wild. Wind south-east. The day has been very hot; horses very tired.

Wednesday, 6th March, The Hugh.

Wednesday, 6th March, The Hugh. Started at 8.45 a.m. on a bearing of 209 degrees. At nine miles, finding the water gone that I had seen on my last return, I dug down to the clay, and obtained a little, but not enough for us. Followed the creek up into the gorge, and found it very dry. Our former tracks are still visible in the bed of the creek. No rain seems to have fallen here since last March. I had almost given up all hopes of finding any water, when, at seven miles, we met with a few rushes, which revived our sinking hopes; and, at eight miles, our eyes and ears were delighted with the sight and sound of numerous diamond birds, a sure sign of the proximity of water. At the mouth of a side creek coming from the James range, on the eastern side of the Hugh, found an excellent water hole, apparently both deep and permanent. We saw a native and his lubra at the upper end at a brush fence in the water; they appeared to be fishing, and did not see us until I called to them. The female was the first who left the water; she ran to the bank, took up her child, and made for a tree, up which she climbed, pushing her young one up before her. She was a tall, well-made woman. The man (an old fellow), tall, stout, and robust, although startled at our appearance, took it leisurely in getting out of the water, ascended the bank, and had a look at us; he then addressed us in his own language, and seemed to work himself up into a great passion, stopping every now and then and spitting fiercely at us like an old tiger. He also ascended the tree, and then gave us a second edition of it. We leisurely watered our horses, and he was very much surprised to see Thring dismount and lead the pack-horse down to the water, so much so that he never said another word, but remained staring at us until we departed, when he commenced again. This water being sufficient for my purpose, I will go no further up the creek, but return to the last night's camp. Wind, south-east.

Thursday, 7th March, The Hugh.

Thursday, 7th March, The Hugh. As my horses are very tired, and the distance between my main camp on the Finke and the water we discovered yesterday being upwards of fifty miles, I will remain here to-day, dig down to the clay, and try if I can obtain enough water for all the party; for, owing to the extreme heat, and the dryness of the feed, many of our weak horses are unable to go a night without water. By 8 p.m. we dug a trench ten feet long, two feet and a half deep, and two feet and a half broad; it is about twelve feet below the level of the creek. We have had a very hard day's work. Wind, south-east. Day very hot.

Friday, 8th March, The Hugh.

Friday, 8th March, The Hugh. This morning very cold; wind, still south-east. The trench is quite full; our four horses made very little impression on it. I shall send up and enlarge the trench, so that we may be enabled to water the whole lot. At 6.40 a.m. started back for the camp. At 1.45 p.m. halted to give the horses a little rest. At 2.30 p.m. changed to 184 degrees, and at four miles reached the table hills, but there was no creek, only a number of clay-pans, all quite dry, with stunted gum-trees growing round them. Changed my bearing to Mount Santo, passing a number of clay-pans of the same description; from thence proceeded to the camp; arrived there at sundown, and found all right. Plenty of water; the horses make little impression on it. Wind, south-east.

Saturday, 9th March, The Finke.

Saturday, 9th March, The Finke. I shall give Thring a rest to-day, and will send him with two others, and a part of the horses, to-morrow to the Hugh, to make a place large enough to water all. From about 2 a.m. until after sunrise the morning has been very cold. Wind, south-east.