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John McDouall Stuart - First Expedition

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

Tuesday, 3rd August, Good Country.

Tuesday, 3rd August, Good Country. It has rained during the whole night, and is likely to do so to-day. Started at 9, on the same course as yesterday, 230 degrees. The first portion of our journey was over six miles of splendid alluvial country, covered with grass--partly spear grass--with a little salt bush intermixed with it, also a few mulga bushes at intervals; no other timber. It is a most beautiful open piece of country, and looks much better than the Adelaide plains did at the commencement of the colony. Four miles further it was not so good; the soil became a little lighter, with more salt bush, and a little scrub. The last eleven miles the soil is good, with grass and salt bush in abundance, but much thicker with mulga and other low scrubs. It seems to be a continuation of the same scrub that we passed over on the 19th ultimo, and I observe that the ants build their habitations in the same style as they did there. They are about one foot in diameter at the base, and formed in the shape of a cone, and are supported by the dead root of a mulga. Others, however, stand from eighteen inches to three feet in height, built of clay, and on the surface. The kangaroo and emu inhabit the country. We have also found a number of places where the natives have been encamped. They seem to be numerous, judging from the number of places where they have had their fires; but we have not seen any of them. We have had it raining nearly all day, and it still looks bad. Our black fellow left us during the night; he seemed to be very much frightened of the other natives. He knows nothing of the country, and if he follows our tracks back, I don't envy him his walk. He was of very little use to us, and I wish I had sent him off before, but I thought he might be useful in conversing with the other natives when we should meet them. He was of no other use than for tracking and assisting in getting the horses in the morning, for I have given them every advantage--they have been seldom hobbled. There are three small valleys on our line in which water seems to have run at some former period. We have crossed no course of rocks of any description since our northern line; from which I am of opinion that the drainage is underneath, so that there ought to be numerous springs near the sea-coast. Camped without water. Distance to-day, twenty miles.

Wednesday, 4th August, Scrubby Good Country.

Wednesday, 4th August, Scrubby Good Country. Started at 8 on the same bearing as yesterday, 230 degrees. At thirteen miles ascended a low red granite range in which there is water. Changed our bearing to 209 degrees to a hill on the opposite range; when I returned I found the grey mare so done up that she is unable to proceed. I should not like to leave her, but I cannot delay longer with her. For about half a mile under the range where we are now camped is beautiful feed up to the horses' knees. Six cockatoos passed over to another range. We have also found a small running stream where I shall leave the mare to-morrow; I will make an attempt to regain her as I return.

Thursday, 5th August, Granite Range.

Thursday, 5th August, Granite Range. Started at 8 on the same bearing for the hill on the opposite range. At six miles another low granite range with water, where we left the mare. At twelve miles went to the highest point of the range composed of hard flinty quartz and ironstone. We had a good view of the surrounding country, which was generally low and undulating, with salt lakes crossing at about ten miles. This region appears to be dotted with the lagoons from nearly the foot of the range. Changed our bearing to 268 degrees for nine miles. Camped under a range of low hills with good feed for the horses. On our west course we crossed a plain of red light soil, with abundance of grass and a little salt bush with a very thick scrub close to the range, but as we advanced it became more open, and the scrub lower. Shot a wallaby and had him for supper. Distance to-day, twenty-five miles.

Friday, 6th August, Under the Low Range.

Friday, 6th August, Under the Low Range. Left at 8.30 a.m. on a bearing of 239 degrees to avoid the stones on the hills. At five miles and a half got some rain water; at nine miles changed our bearing to 255 degrees; at fifteen miles camped among the sand hills. Shot another wallaby. The timber about here is very large, consisting of black oaks, mallee, mulga, the native peach, the nut, and numerous low scrubs. The grass is good in some places. The mountain that I am steering for is further off than I anticipated; we got sight of it a short time before we halted; it seems to be very high, and I expect something good will be the result of our visit to it to-morrow. The hills that we were camped under last night are composed of quartz, and are connected with the range that we were on running to the south-west. Distance to-day, twenty six miles.

Saturday, 7th August, Sand Hills going to the High Mount.

Saturday, 7th August, Sand Hills going to the High Mount. Left at 8.30 a.m. on the same bearing, 255 degrees, for eighteen miles to the foot of the mountain. At fifteen miles camped under the highest point, which is composed of quartz rock. The journey to-day has been through horrid dense scrub and heavy sand hills, to the foot of the hill, which I have named Mount Finke. It is as high as Mount Arden; I have not light to get on the top of it to-night. Very little rain has fallen here, and we have been without water for the last two nights: the country is of such a light sandy soil that it will not retain it. I almost give up hopes of a good country; this is very disheartening after all that I have done to find it. If I see nothing from the top of the mount to-morrow, I must turn down to Fowler's Bay for water for the horses. As I could not remain quiet, I got on one of the lower spurs of Mount Finke to see what was before me. The prospect is gloomy in the extreme! I could see a long distance, but nothing met the eye save A DENSE SCRUB AS BLACK AND DISMAL AS MIDNIGHT. On my return I found that Forster had succeeded in finding water by digging in the creek. Distance to-day, twenty miles.