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John McDouall Stuart - First Expedition

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

Saturday, 24th July, South-east Side of Flat-topped Hill.

Saturday, 24th July, South-east Side of Flat-topped Hill. Left at 8.10 a.m. on the same course, 122 degrees, over an undulating stony plain, with narrow sand hills at intervals, and a number of lagoons containing rain water, where we camped. I intend to move to-morrow to another large lagoon that we have seen from a small rise, and rest the horses there; they have had a very severe day of it, and feel the want of shoes very much. The stones are mostly white quartz and ironstone, small and water-washed. I conclude they have come from the hills that are to the south-west. Distance to-day, twenty-four miles.

Sunday, 25th July, A Lagoon of Rain Water.

Sunday, 25th July, A Lagoon of Rain Water. Finding that we have sand hills to cross, and being anxious to meet with the gum creek that the blacks have talked about, I have determined to proceed to-day, but if I do not find it on this course I shall turn to the south. Started at eight a.m. on a bearing of 122 degrees. At five miles, one mile to the south is a large reedy swamp. At fourteen miles changed the bearing to 135 degrees to the head of a swamp, two miles and a half, found it dry, a large clay-pan about three miles in circumference. I am obliged to halt, the horses are very tired and want rest; and there being plenty of beautiful green feed about, I have halted without water. Our journey has been through a very thick mulga scrub and sand hills, very heavy travelling. The trees in the scrub are of a different description to any that I have seen; they grow high and very crooked, without branches until near the top, and with a rough, ragged bark; seven or eight seem to spring from one root. The wood is very tough and heavy, and burns a long time, giving out a glowing heat. The leaves resemble the mulga, but are of a darker colour and smaller size. The native name is Moratchee. Shot a wallaby, and had him for dinner. They are very wild, no getting within shot of them, which is unfortunate, as our provisions are getting rather short. From the number of native tracks about, this would seem to be their season for hunting in the sand hills, which accounts for everything being so wild. We saw five turkeys yesterday, but could not get within shot of them. All the water seems to drain into the reedy swamp and clay-pans. I shall go no further to the east on this course, for I can see no inducement. I shall go south to-morrow, and see what that produces; if I cross no large creek within forty-five miles in that direction, I shall then direct my course for the north-west of Fowler's Bay to see what is there. Distance to-day, sixteen miles.

Monday, 27th July, Sand Hills and Dense Scrub.

Monday, 26th July, Sand Hills and Dense Scrub. Left our camp at 9.20 a.m. on a southerly course, 182 degrees. At thirteen miles we camped at some rain water to give the horses a little rest. We have come through a very thick scrub of mulga, with broken sand hills and a few low rises of lime and ironstone. We have seen two or three pines for the first time, and a few black oaks. No appearance of a change of country. From a high sand ridge I could see a long way to the north-east, seemingly all a dense scrub. The grey mare is unwell again. Distance to-day, thirteen miles.

Tuesday, 27th July, Sandy Undulations.

Tuesday, 27th July, Sandy Undulations. Started at 9 a.m. on the same bearing as yesterday, 182 degrees. At twenty-one miles changed our course to 235 degrees to some gum-trees. The first part of our journey the scrub became lower and more open, with limestone and sand rises at intervals, and with a good deal of grass in places. The last ten miles the mulga scrub was so dense that it was with difficulty we managed to get through. We have seen no water on this day's route, except that in the lagoon we are now camped at, and which is as salt as the sea. There is another large lagoon about a mile to the westward of us, which I will examine to-morrow to see if it gives rise to any creek. Distance to-day, twenty-two miles.

Wednesday, 28th July, Sand Hills.

Wednesday, 28th July, Sand Hills. Started at 9 a.m. on a bearing of 283 degrees for two miles to examine the other lagoon, which is about three miles long, water salt. Changed our course to 182 degrees for ten miles to a large lake crossing our course. Changed our bearing to 240 degrees, and at four miles changed to 270 degrees, crossing some horse-tracks going towards the large lake. This seems to be a country of salt lagoons, for we passed three, and have seen a great many more. The large one that crossed our south course is evidently the head of Lake Gairdner. I could see it winding away in that direction. We have now got upon a plain slightly undulating with thick scrub and the unceasing mulga, intermixed with a few black oaks; no signs of water, no creeks. I intend to proceed north of west to intersect any creek or country that may come from the good country that we found on our south-east course, and the land of kangaroos; there is no hope of anything here. Camped without water. Distance to-day, twenty miles.