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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.

Thursday, April 5th, Good Country.

Thursday, April 5th, Good Country. Started on the same course to some hills, through sand hills and spinifex for ten miles. Halted for half an hour to obtain an observation of the sun, 117 degrees 6 minutes. Within the last mile or two we have passed a few patches of shea-oak, growing large, having a very rough and thick bark, nearly black. They have a dismal appearance. The spinifex now ceased, and grass began to take its place as we approached the hills. From the top of the hill the view is limited, except to the south-west, where, in the far distance, is a long range. The country between seems to be scrub, red sand hills, and spinifex. To the west the country is open, but at five miles is intercepted by the point of the range that I am about to cross. To the north-west and east is a mass of flat-topped hills, of every size and shape, running always to the east. Camped on the head of a small gum creek, among the hills, which are composed of the same description of stones as the others. This water hole is three feet deep, and will last a month or so. The native cucumber is growing here.

Friday, 6th April, Small Gum Creek in Range of Hills.

Friday, 6th April, Small Gum Creek in Range of Hills. Started on the same course, 330 degrees, to a remarkable hill, which has the appearance at this distance of a locomotive engine with its funnel. For three miles the country is very good, but after that high sand hills succeeded, covered with spinifex. At six miles we got to one of the largest gum creeks I have yet seen. It is much the same as the one we saw on the 4th, and the water in it is running. Great difficulty in crossing it, its bed being quicksand. We were nearly across, when I saw a black fellow among the bushes; I pulled up, and called to him. At first he seemed at a loss to know where the sound came from. As soon, however, as he saw the other horses coming up, he took to his heels, and was off like a shot, and we saw no more of him. As far as I can judge, the creek comes from the south-west, but the sand hills are so high, and the large black shea-oak so thick, that I cannot distinguish the creek very well. These trees look so much like gums in the distance; some of them are very large, as also are the gums in the creek. Numerous tracks of blacks all about. It is the upper part of the Finke, and at this point runs through high sand hills (red), covered with spinifex, which it is very difficult to get the horses through. We passed through a few patches of good grassy country. In the sand hills the oak is getting more plentiful. We were three-quarters of an hour in crossing the creek, and obtained an observation of the sun, 116 degrees 26 minutes 15 seconds. We then proceeded on the same course towards the remarkable pillar, through high, heavy sand hills, covered with spinifex, and, at twelve miles from last night's camp, arrived at it. It is a pillar of sandstone, standing on a hill upwards of one hundred feet high. From the base of the pillar to its top is about one hundred and fifty feet, quite perpendicular; and it is twenty feet wide by ten feet deep, with two small peaks on the top. I have named it Chambers Pillar, in honour of James Chambers, Esquire, who, with William Finke, Esquire, has been my great supporter in all my explorations. To the north and north-east of it are numerous remarkable hills, which have a very striking effect in the landscape; they resemble nothing so much as a number of old castles in ruins; they are standing in the midst of sand hills. Proceeded, still on the same course, through the sand rises, spinifex, and low sandstone hills, at the foot of which we saw some rain water, where I camped. To the south-west are some high hills, through which I think the Finke comes. I would follow it up, but the immense quantity of sand in its bed shows that it comes from a sandy country, which I wish to avoid if I can. Wind south-east. Heavy clouds; very like rain.

Saturday, 7th April, Rain Water under Sandstone Hills.

Saturday, 7th April, Rain Water under Sandstone Hills. Started on the same course 330 degrees, over low sand rises and spinifex, for six miles. It then became a plain of red soil, with mulga bushes, and for seven miles was as fine a grassed country as any one would wish to look at; it could be cut with a scythe. Dip of the country to the east, sand hills to the west; afterwards it became alternate sand hills and grassy plains, mulga, mallee, and black oak. From the top of one of the sand hills, I can see a range which our line will cut; I shall make to the foot of that to-night, and I expect I shall find a creek with water there. Proceeded through another long plain sloping towards the creek, and covered with grass. At about one mile from the creek we again met with sand hills and spinifex, which continued to it. Arrived and camped; found water. It is very broad, with a sandy bottom, which will not retain water long; beautiful grass on both banks. Wind east, and cool.

Sunday, 8th April, The Hugh Gum Creek.

Sunday, 8th April, The Hugh Gum Creek. I have named this creek the Hugh, and the range James Range. It is scrubby on this side and is not flat-topped as all the others have been, which indicates a change of country. On the other side the bearing is nearly east and west. Examined the creek, but cannot find sufficient water to depend upon for any length of time; the gum-trees are large. Numerous parrots, black cockatoos, and other birds. Wind east; very cold during the night.