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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.

Wednesday, 21st March, Neale River.

Wednesday, 21st March, Neale River. Beautiful sunshine. Shall remain here to-day, in order to dry my provisions. On examining them I find that a quantity of our dried meat is quite spoiled, which is a great loss--another wet day, and we should have lost the half of it.

Thursday, 22nd March, Side Creek of the Neale River.

Thursday, 22nd March, Side Creek of the Neale River. Wind south-west; clear sky. I intended to have gone north-west from this point, but, in attempting to cross the creek, we found it impassable. My horse got bogged at the first start, and we had some difficulty in getting him out. We were obliged to follow the creek westward for seven miles, where it passes between two high hills connected with the range. We managed at last, with great labour and difficulty, to get across without accident. At this place four creeks join the main one, and spread over a mile in breadth, with upwards of twenty boggy water-courses; water running. It has taken us five hours, from the time we started, to cross it. The principal creek comes from the south-west. I ascended the two hills to get a view of the surrounding country, and I could see the creek coming from a long way off in that direction. At this point the range seems broken or detached into numerous small ranges and isolated hills. I now changed my course to north-west, over table land of a light-brown colour, with stones on the surface; the vegetation was springing all over it and looking beautifully green. At six miles on this course camped on a myall creek. The work for the horses has been so very severe to-day that I have been induced to camp sooner than I intended. Wind south.

Friday, 23rd March, Myall Creek.

Friday, 23rd March, Myall Creek. Wind south. Started on the same course, north-west. At three miles crossed another tributary--gum and myall. The country, before we struck the creek, was good salt-bush country, with a plentiful supply of grass. The soil was of a light-brown colour, gypsum underneath, and stones on the surface, grass and herbs growing all round them. After crossing the creek, which was boggy, we again ascended a low table land of the same description. At ten miles came upon a few low sand rises, about a mile in breadth. We then struck a creek, another tributary, spread over a large plain, very boggy, with here and there patches of quicksand. We had great difficulty in getting over it, but at last succeeded without any mishap. We then entered a thick scrubby country of mulga and other shrubs; the soil now changed to a dark red, covered splendidly with grass. After the first mile the scrub became much thinner; ground slightly undulating. After crossing this good country, at twenty miles we struck a large creek running very rapidly at five miles per hour; breadth of water one hundred feet, with gum-trees on the bank. From bank to bank it was forty-four yards wide. This seemed to be only one of the courses. There were other gum-trees on the opposite side, and apparently other channels. Wind south. A few clouds from the north-west.

Saturday, 24th March, Large Gum-Tree Creek.

Saturday, 24th March, Large Gum-Tree Creek. Found it impossible to cross the Neale here; the banks were too boggy and steep. We therefore followed it round on a west course for three miles, and found that it came a little more from the north. Changed to 290 degrees, after trying in vain to cross the creek at this point. At about four or five miles south-south-west from this point there are two high peaks of a low range. The higher one I have named Mount Ben, and the range Head's Range; its general bearing is north-west to opposite this point; it turns then more to the west. I can see another spur further to the west, trending north-west. At four miles and a half after leaving we found a ford, and got the horses across all safe. I then changed to the north-west again, through a scrubby country--mulga, acacia, hakea, salt bush, and numerous others, with a plentiful supply of grass. The soil is of a red sandy nature, very loose, and does not retain water on the surface. We had great difficulty in getting through, many places being so very thick with dead mulga. We have seen no water since we left the creek. Distance, eighteen miles. I was obliged to camp without water for ourselves. As we crossed the Neale we saw fish in it of a good size, about eight inches long, from which I should say that the water is permanent. I shall have to run to the west to-morrow, for there is no appearance of this scrubby country terminating. I must have a whole day of it.

Sunday, 25th March, Mulga Scrub.

Sunday, 25th March, Mulga Scrub. I can see no termination, on this course, to this thick scrub. I can scarcely see one hundred yards before me. I shall therefore bear to the west, cut the Neale River, and see what sort of country is in that direction. At ten miles made it; the water still running, but not so rapidly. The gum-trees still existed in its bed, and there were large pools of water on the side courses. We had the same thick scrub to within a quarter of a mile of the creek, where we met a line of red sand hills covered with a spinifex. The range on the south-west side of the creek seemed to terminate here, and become low table land, apparently covered with a thick scrub, the creek coming more from the north. I did not like the appearance of the spinifex, an indication of desert to the westward. Camped on the creek. Wind north-west; heavy clouds from the same direction.