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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.

Monday, 26th March, The Neale River West.

Monday, 26th March, The Neale River West. I am obliged to remain here to-day to repair damages done to the packs and bags, which have been torn all to pieces; it will take the whole of the day to put them in order. We have seen very few signs of natives visiting this part of the country. I shall go north to-morrow and try to get through this scrub. Wind south, sky overcast with heavy clouds; looks very like rain.

Tuesday, 27th March, West Neales.

Tuesday, 27th March, West Neales. Rained very heavily during the night, and is still doing so, but less copiously. About noon it cleared up a little. I have sent Kekwick to get a notion of the country on the other side of the low range, while I endeavour to obtain an observation of the sun. The range is scrubby, composed of a light-coloured and dark-red conglomerate volcanic rock, easily broken. The view from it is not extensive. At a mile from the creek the sand ceases, and stony ground succeeds up to the range. Feed excellent south-west from the camp. To the eastward rugged hills, apparently with fine open grass and forest lands. Numerous rows of water holes visible. To the south-east, country more open. To the south-south-east and south still the same good country. From south to west the same; hills to the west from five to eight miles distant. View from another hill north-west two miles and a half. The hills on the west still continue towards the north-west, but become lower. Country scrubby, with occasional patches of open grass land. Creek coming in from north-north-west. From north-west to north-north-east mulga scrub. From north-north-east to east low range in the distance, like table land. Too cloudy to take an observation; occasional showers during the day. Wind south-south-east; still looking very black. Repairing my saddles; some of my horses are getting bad backs.

Wednesday, 28th March, West Neale River.

Wednesday, 28th March, West Neale River. Started on a north course to get through the mulga scrub. At ten miles could see the range to the north-east. The scrubby land now became sand hills; I could see no high ground on ahead, the scrub becoming thicker; it seemed to be a country similar to that I passed through on my south-east course (first journey), and I think is a continuation of it. I therefore changed my course to the north-east range, bearing 35 degrees. After five miles through the same description of country, mulga scrub with plenty of grass, we arrived at water, where three creeks join, one from the south-west, one west-north-west, and the other from about north-west. The water was still running in the one from the west-north-west with large long water holes; also water holes in the other two; gum-trees in the creek. I suppose this to be the Frew; excellent feed on the banks of the creek up to the range, which is stony. I ascended the table range in order to have a view of the country round. To this point the range comes from east-south-east, but here it takes a turn to the east of north, all flat-topped and stony, with mulga bushes on the top and sides; the rocks are of a light, flinty nature. At about six miles north the country seems to be open and stony. That country I shall steer for to-morrow. To the north-east is the range, but it seems to drop into low table land; distant about fifteen miles. To the north-west and west is the thick mulga, scrubby country. There are numerous tracks of natives in the different creeks, quite fresh, apparently made to-day. Wind south-east; clouds.

Thursday, 29th March, The Frew.

Thursday, 29th March, The Frew. Started on a north course. At one mile, after crossing a stony hill with mulga, we suddenly came upon the creek again; it winds round the hill. Here another branch joins it from the north, the other coming from the east of north. Along the base of the range there were very large water holes in both branches. The natives had evidently camped here last night; their fires were still alight; they seemed only just to have left. From the numerous fires I should think there had been a great number of natives here. All round about in every direction were numerous tracks. We also observed a number of winter habitations on the banks of the creek; also a large native grave, composed of sand, earth, wood, and stones. It was of a circular form, about four feet and a half high, and twenty to twenty-four yards in circumference. The mulga continued for about six miles; but at three miles we again crossed the north branch of the creek, coming now from the north-west. The mulga was not thick except on the top of the rises, where splendid grass was growing all through it. We now came upon the open stony country, with a few mulga creeks. There was a little salt bush, but an immense quantity of green grass, growing about a foot high, which gave to the country a beautiful appearance. It seemed to be the same all round as far as I could see. At fourteen miles we struck the other branch, where it joined, with splendid reaches of water, to the main one, which now came from the west of north, and continued to where our line cut the east branch. This seems to be the place where it takes its rise. Camped for the night. The whole of the country that we have travelled through to-day is the best for grass that I have ever gone through. I have nowhere seen its equal. From the number of natives, from there being winter and summer habitations, and from the native grave, I am led to conclude the water there is permanent. The gum-trees are large. I saw kangaroo-tracks.

Friday, 30th March, Small Branch of The Frew.

Friday, 30th March, Small Branch of The Frew. Course north. At two miles and a half changed to 332 degrees to a distant hill, apparently a range of flat-topped hills. At sixteen miles crossed a large gum creek running to the south of east; it spreads out over a flat between rough hills of half a mile wide. The bed is very sandy; it will not retain water long. On the surface it very much resembles the Douglas, but is broader, and the gum-trees much larger. There were some rushes growing in its bed. I have named it the Ross. We then ascended the low range for which I had been steering. Four miles from the creek it is rough and stony, composed of igneous rock, with scrub, mulga, and plenty of grass quite to the top. To continue this course would lead me again into the mulga scrub, where I do not want to get if I can help it. It is far worse than guiding a vessel at sea; the compass requires to be constantly in hand. I again changed to the north, which appears to be open in the distance. I could see another range of flat-topped hills. After crossing over several small spurs coming from the range, and a number of small creeks, volcanic, and stony, we struck another large gum creek coming from the south of west, and running to the south-east. It was a fine creek. These courses of water spread over a grassy plain a mile wide; the water holes were long and deep, with numerous plants growing on their banks, indicating permanent water. The wild oats on the bank of the creek were four feet high. The country gone over to-day, although stony, was completely covered with grass and salt bush; it was even better than that passed yesterday. Some of the grass resembled the drake, some the wild wheat, and some rye--the same as discovered by Captain Sturt. There is a light shade over the horizon from south-east to north-west, indicating the presence of a lake in that direction. I have named it after my friend Mr. Stevenson. There are small fish in the holes of this creek, and mussel shells, also crabs about two inches by one inch and a half.