- Category: John McDouall Stuart - Fourth Expedition
- Written by John McDouall Stuart
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Wednesday, 27th June, Hayward Creek. This morning we see signal fires all around us. It was my intention last night to have gone this morning to Kekwick Ponds to water the horses, then to give them the day to rest, and proceed to-morrow back again to the large creek, and go on to the distant hills that I was steering for on the 25th instant, but, after considering the matter over the whole night, I have most reluctantly come to the determination to abandon the attempt to make the Gulf of Carpentaria. Situated as I now am, it would be most imprudent. In the first place my party is far too small to cope with such wily, determined natives as those we have just encountered. If they had been Europeans they could not better have arranged and carried out their plan of attack. They had evidently observed us passing in the morning, had examined our tracks to see which way we had gone, and knew we could get no water down the creek, but must retrace our steps to obtain it above them; they therefore lay in wait for our return. Their charge was in double column, open order, and we had to take steady aim, to make an impression. With such as these for enemies in our rear, and, most probably, far worse in advance, it would be destruction to all my party for me to attempt to go on. All the information of the interior that I have already obtained would be lost. Moreover, we have only half rations for six months, four of which are gone, and I have been economizing as much as I possibly could in case of our having to be out a longer time, so that my men now complain of great weakness, and are unable to perform what they have to do. Again, only two showers of rain have fallen since March, and I am afraid of the waters drying up to the south, and there is no appearance of rain at present. The days are now become very hot again, and the feed for the horses as dry as if it were the middle of summer. The poor animals are very much reduced in condition, so much so that I am afraid of their being longer than one night without water. Finally, my health is so bad, that I am hardly able to sit in the saddle. After taking all those things into consideration, I think it would be madness and folly to attempt more. If my own life were the only sacrifice, I would willingly risk it to accomplish my purpose; but it seems that I am destined to be disappointed; man proposes, but the Almighty disposes, and his will must be obeyed. Seeing the signal fires around, and dreading lest our black friends at Kekwick Ponds might have been playing a double part with us, in spite of their Masonic signs, I gave them a wide berth, and steered for Bishop Creek. Arrived there in the afternoon, and found that the creek had not been visited by natives since we left. These natives do not deposit their dead bodies in the ground, but place them in the trees, and, judging from the number of these corpses which we have passed between this and the large creek, where they made their attack upon us, they must be very numerous. These natives have quite a different cast of features from those in the south; they have neither the broad flat nose and large mouth, nor the projecting eyebrows, but have more of the Malay; they are tall, muscular, well-made men, and I think they must have seen or encountered white men before.