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John McDouall Stuart - First Expedition

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

Sunday, 13th June, Mudleealpa.

Sunday, 13th June, Mudleealpa. Started for Beda. Some of the horses would not drink the water, and others drank very little: they will be glad to drink far worse than this before they come back, or I am much mistaken. Arrived at Beda at sundown. I was right in my opinion; no fresh water to be found; nothing but salt, salter than the sea. I can see nothing of Mr. Babbage's* encampment; he must be higher up the creek. All the country we have come over to-day is very dry. (* It will probably be recollected that Mr. Babbage was sent out by the Government to make a north-west course through the continent, but, when at the Elizabeth, he made an unaccountable detour, and found himself at Port Augusta, his original starting-point. On my return from this journey he called on me at Mount Arden, when I furnished him with such information as he required, and he again started, and made Chambers' Creek, which I had previously found and named after my old friend, Mr. James Chambers, but which he called Stuart's Creek in acknowledgment of my information, etc. J. McD. Stuart.)

Monday, 14th June, Beda.

Monday, 14th June, Beda. This morning we have searched all round, but can find no fresh water, although there are numerous places that would retain water if any quantity had fallen. Mr. Forster, whom I had sent up the creek to Mr. Babbage's, to inquire if there was any water at Pernatta, has returned with the information that Mr. B. was up there with all his horses, and that there was still a little water, but not much. Started at 11.30 a.m. for that place; camped in the sand hills one hour after dark. Here we found some pig-faces* which the horses eat freely. (* These pig-faces belong to the Mesembryaceae, of which the common ice-plant of our gardens is an example.) There is a great deal of moisture in them, and they are a first-rate thing for thirsty horses; besides, they have a powerful diuretic effect. I was unable to fix Beda Hill, all my time being taken up in looking for water, but I hope to get its position at Pernatta. The country was very heavy--sand hills.

Tuesday, 15th June, Sand Hills.

Tuesday, 15th June, Sand Hills. Started at break of day for Pernatta. About 10 a.m. met Mr. Babbage's two men returning with some of the horses for rations. They informed me that the water was nearly all gone, but that there was plenty in the Elizabeth, nineteen miles from Pernatta. I intended to keep on the track, but our black insisted that Pernatta lay through a gap, and not round the bluff. I allowed him to have his own way. Our route was through a very stony saddle. When there we saw a gum creek, and made for it; when we arrived at the creek he told us that was Pernatta. We looked for water, and found a little hole, which, to our great disappointment, contained salt water. Could see nothing of Mr. Babbage's camp. I then asked our black where there was another water; he said, "Down the creek," which we followed. He took us to five or six water holes, with native names, every one dry. The last one he called Yolticourie. It being now within an hour of sundown, I would follow him no longer, but unsaddled, and told Mr. Forster to take the black and the horses, and to steer for the bluff; if he found no water between, to intersect Mr. Babbage's tracks, and follow them up and get water. I remained with our provisions. The black fellow evidently does not know the country. I am sorry that I have taken him with me. I think I shall send him back; he is of little use in assisting to get the horses in the morning.

Wednesday, 16th June, Yolticourie.

Wednesday, 16th June, Yolticourie. The horses have returned; they found no water last night; they were obliged to camp for the night, it being so dark, but they found Mr. Babbage's camp very early. The horses drank all the water. I was wrong in blaming the black fellow; he took us to the RIGHT Pernatta. It is another water that Mr. B. is encamped at. He moves to-day for the Elizabeth, which I also will do. He found the remains of poor Coulthard yesterday. We must have passed quite close to them in our search for water. He has sent for me to come and assist at the burial. It being so late in the day (12 o'clock), and the horses requiring more water, and he having four men besides himself, I do not see that I can be of any use, and it might cause me to lose another day, and the horses to be another night without water, which would be an injury to them, they not having had sufficient this morning. Mr. B. also sent to say that he would accompany me to the Elizabeth. I have delayed an hour for him, and he has not yet made his appearance; it being now 1 o'clock, and having to travel seventeen miles, I can wait no longer. Started for Bottle Hill; arrived on the south side of the hill an hour and a half before sundown, found some water and plenty of grass; encamped for the night. Distance to-day, seventeen miles. The former part of the journey was over very stony country; the latter part very heavy sand hills.

Thursday, 17th June, Bottle Hill.

Thursday, 17th June, Bottle Hill. Got on the top of Bottle Hill to take bearings, but was disappointed; could see no hill except one, which was either Mount Deception or Mount North-west; the bearing was 51 degrees 30 minutes. There is a small cone of stones on the top, and a flat stone on the top of it, with the names of Louden and Burtt. From here I saw the gum trees in the Elizabeth; course to them 325 degrees 30 minutes, seven miles to the creek. The country from the hill here is of the very worst description--nothing but sand and salt bush.