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John McDouall Stuart - First Expedition

JOURNAL OF MR. STUART'S EXPEDITION TO THE NORTH-WEST. MAY TO SEPTEMBER, 1858.

Monday, 28th June, Gum Creek.

Monday, 28th June, Gum Creek. There has been a little rain during the night, and it is still coming down. As I am so far north, I regret that I am unable to go a little further, fearing the lameness of the horses from the stony nature of the country. I intend to follow the creek up, if it comes from the west, or a little to the north of west, to see if I cannot make the fall of the country to the south-west, and get on a better road for the horses. We started on a bearing of 305 degrees, but after a mile and a half, finding the creek wind too much to the north, we changed our course to 287 degrees for five miles to a small flat-topped hill. Changed our bearing again to 281 degrees for twenty-two miles to a tent hill, on the south side of which we camped. This part of the country is very stony and bad, with salt bush and very little grass. It has evidently been the course of a large water at some time, and reminded me of the stony desert of Captain Sturt. Bleak, barren, and desolate, it grows no timber, so that we scarcely can find sufficient wood to boil our quart pot. The rain, which poured down upon us all day, so softened the ground that the horses could tread the stones into it, and we got along much better than we expected. Distance to-day, twenty-eight miles and a half.

Tuesday, 29th June, South Side of Tent Hill.

Tuesday, 29th June, South Side of Tent Hill. Started at 8.30 a.m. on a bearing of 305 degrees. At eight miles crossed a gum creek, with polyganum, running to the north. At twelve miles crossed another, trending in the same direction. These creeks are wide and formed into numerous channels. I expected to have done thirty miles to-day, but am disappointed, for we were obliged to halt early, after having gone only eighteen miles, as my horse was quite lame. How much do we feel the want of another set of horse-shoes! We have, however, still got an old shoe left, which is put on this afternoon. It had continued raining all last night, but not heavily, and cleared off in the morning shortly after we started. Our travelling to-day has been still very stony, over stony rises; the stony table land that has been all along on our left is now trending more to the south-west. The country is more open: in looking at it from one of the rises it has the appearance of an immense plain, studded with isolated flat-topped hills. The last eight miles is better grassed and has more salt bush. Camped on a small creek in the stony rises. Distance to-day, eighteen miles.

Wednesday, 30th June, Stony Rises.

Wednesday, 30th June, Stony Rises. We had a little rain in the former part of the night, and a very heavy dew in the morning. Started at 9.30 a.m., bearing 305 degrees; at five miles crossed the upper part of a gum creek, and at twelve miles ascended a high flat-topped hill, commanding a view of an immense stony plain, but it is so hazy that we can see nothing beyond ten miles. From this hill we changed our course to 309 degrees to a saddle in the next range. At four miles halted at a gum creek, with plenty of green feed. Made a very short journey to-day in consequence of the horses being quite lame. In addition to their want of shoes, a stiff, tenacious brown clay adhered to the hoof, and picked up the small round stones, which pressed on the frog of the foot. These pebbles were as firmly packed as if they had been put in with cement, so that we had hard work to keep the hoofs clear. Distance travelled, sixteen miles. Weather showery.

Thursday, 1st July, Gum Greek.

Thursday, 1st July, Gum Greek. The horses have had such poor food for the last week that I shall rest them to-day. About half a mile below us there is a large water hole a quarter of a mile long, with a number of black ducks upon it, but they are very shy. It rained very heavily and without intermission all last night and to-day. This creek is visited by a great many natives. We saw them making away as we approached.

Friday, 2nd July, Same Place.

Friday, 2nd July, Same Place. The creek came down last night: it is now a sheet of water two hundred yards broad. Started at 8.45 a.m. over a stony plain on a bearing of 309 degrees, to the saddle in the range. I ascended one of the highest hills in this range, but the day was too dull to see far. I could, however, distinguish what appeared to be a wooded country* in the distance, from south-west to north-east. (* This "wooded country" afterwards turned out to be sand hills, with scrub.) Observing that the country a little more to the north was less stony, I changed our course to a bearing of 344 degrees, over a plain thinly covered with gravelly stones, consisting of quartz, ironstone, and a dark reddish-brown stone, with a good deal of gypsum cropping out. The soil is of a light-brown colour, with plenty of dry grass upon it, and very little salt bush. In the spring time it must look beautiful. The country was so boggy from the heavy rains, that for the sake of my horse I was obliged to stop early. Camped at a gum creek coming from the south-west, and running a little to the east of north. Distance to-day, eighteen miles.