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John McDouall Stuart - Fourth Expedition

JOURNAL OF MR. STUART'S FOURTH EXPEDITION--FIXING THE CENTRE OF THE CONTINENT. FROM MARCH TO SEPTEMBER, 1860.

Friday, 16th March, The Peake.

Friday, 16th March, The Peake. Saddled and started to cross the Peake about three miles to the south-west, but had a fearful job in doing so, the banks being so boggy, and the current so strong. The horses could hardly keep on their feet, and most of them were up to their saddle-flaps, and some under water altogether. One poor old fellow we were obliged to leave in it, as he was unable to get out, and we were unable to help him, although we tried for hours. He is of very little use to me, for he has never recovered his trip to Moolloodoo and back. He has had nothing to carry since we started, and seemed to be improving every day. I wish now that I had left him at Chambers Creek along with the grey, but as he looked in better condition, I thought he would mend on the journey, and I intended him to bring the horses in every morning, when we got further out. We have been from 10 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. in getting across, including the time spent in trying to extricate Billy. I cannot proceed further to-day, and have therefore camped on the west side of the springs that we saw from the last encampment, which I named Kekwick Springs. There are six springs. The largest one will require to be opened; the reeds on it are very thick, and from ten to twelve feet in height. We tried again to get the horse on shore, but could not manage it; the more we try to extricate him, the worse he gets. I have left him; I do not think he will survive the night. It is now sundown, and raining heavily; the night looks very black and stormy. Wind from the south-west.

Saturday, 17th March, Kekwick Springs.

Saturday, 17th March, Kekwick Springs. About 8 o'clock last evening the wind changed to the north-west, and we had some very heavy rain, which lasted the greater part of the night. Early in the morning the wind changed again to the south-east, with occasional showers. At sunrise it looked very stormy. I must be off as soon as possible out of this boggy place. The old horse is still alive, but very weak. The water has lowered during the night. If no more rain falls to the south-west it will soon be dry, when he may have a chance of getting out. I cannot remain longer to assist him; it would only be putting the rest of my horses in danger. I would have remained here to-day to have dried my provisions, but the appearance of the weather will not allow me. They must take their chance. Started on a north-west course for the Neale. At fifteen miles struck it, and changed to the west to a creek coming south from the stony rises. The banks of the Neale are very boggy. The first four miles to-day were along the top of a sandy rise, with swampy flats on each side, with a number of reeds growing in them, also rushes and water-grass. At four miles was a strong rise, but before we arrived at it we had to cross one of the swamps, in which we encountered great difficulty. After many turnings and twistings, and being bogged up to the shoulders, we managed to get through all safe. It was fearfully hard work. For three miles, on the top of a stony rise, the country is poor (stones on the top of gypsum deposit), but after that it gradually improves, and towards the creek it becomes a good salt-bush country. Wind from the south-east; still very cloudy.

Sunday, 18th March, Neale River.

Sunday, 18th March, Neale River. Wind south-east; heavy clouds. I observed a bulbous plant growing in this creek resembling the Egyptian arum; it was just springing. I will endeavour to get some of the seed, if I can. I hoped we should have got our provisions dried to-day, but it was so showery we could not get it done. The creek is so boggy that we cannot cross it, and must follow it round to-morrow. A sad accident has happened to my plans. There was a small hole in the case that contains them, which I did not observe, and in crossing the Peake the water gained admittance and completely saturated them; it is a great misfortune. Sundown: still raining; wind same direction.

Monday, 19th March, Neale River.

Monday, 19th March, Neale River. Rained during the night, and looks very stormy this morning. Followed the Neale round to where it goes through the gap in Hanson range; in places it was rather boggy, but good travelling in this wet weather--firmer than I expected. We had much difficulty in crossing some of the side creeks. Camped on the south side of the gap. Wind south-east; cloudy, with little rain.

Tuesday, 20th March, Neale River Gap, Hanson Range.

Tuesday, 20th March, Neale River Gap, Hanson Range. Wind south-east; a few showers during the night. Still no chance of getting my provisions dried. It cleared off about noon, and became a fine day. Followed the Neale round, and camped on one of the side creeks coming from the south of west. Ground still soft. Wind south-east. Saw some smoke in the hills this morning, but no natives. Good country along both sides of the range on the west side of the Neale.