John McDouall Stuart - First Expedition


Friday, 13th August. Dense Scrub.

Friday, 13th August. Dense Scrub. The horses look very bad this morning. I hope we shall be able to make the sea-coast to-day. Started at 8.30 on the same bearing, 165 degrees, but was unable to get more than ten miles out of the horses; Bonney is nearly done up, and there is no water for the poor animals. I hope I shall not be obliged to leave the poor old horse behind, but I very much fear that I shall have to do so if nothing turns up to-morrow. The country is still the same. This is dreadful work!

Saturday, 14th August, Dense Scrub.

Saturday, 14th August, Dense Scrub. Started at 8.15 on the same bearing, 165 degrees. At ten miles came upon some green feed for the horses, and gave them the benefit of it for the rest of the day. Bonney still very bad. For the last two miles we have had no sand hills, but very dense mallee and tea-tree, with a light sandy soil with a little limestone, also salt bush and pig-face in abundance. No water.

Sunday, 15th August, Dense Mallee Scrub.

Sunday, 15th August, Dense Mallee Scrub. Started at 8.45 on same bearing, 165 degrees. At two miles and a half changed our course to 225 degrees, having found some fresh horse-tracks; at seven miles camped for the remainder of the day to recruit the horses, having come upon some new green grass. Distance actually travelled, fifteen miles.

Monday, 16th August, Dense Mallee Scrub.

Monday, 16th August, Dense Mallee Scrub. Started at 9 on a course of 205 degrees. Twelve miles to Miller's Water. I intended to have given the horses two days' rest here, but there is not sufficient water; there are only three holes in the limestone rock, and the thirsty animals have nearly drunk it all: there will not be enough for them in the morning. The country that we have come through yesterday and to-day resembles the scrub between Franklin Harbour and Port Lincoln--mallee with grassy plains occasionally--only the mallee is larger, and the plains are met with at shorter intervals, more numerous and of larger extent. The soil is good but light, being produced by decomposed limestone, of which the low range to the north-west is composed. I am unable to go to Fowler's Bay as I intended; our provisions are exhausted, and the horses unable to do the journey. I must now shape my course for Streaky Bay to get something to eat.

Tuesday, 17th August, Miller's Water.

Tuesday, 17th August, Miller's Water. Watered our horses from a waterproof with a quart pot. Started at 9.15, our course 160 degrees, six miles to Bectimah Gaip. For the first three miles the grassy plains are very good, and seem to run a considerable distance between belts of large mallee, in some places wider than in others, and seem to be connected by small gaips; I think water could be easily obtained by digging. The last three miles to the coast is very dense small mallee. Actual distance, twelve miles. I intend to give the horses a rest to-morrow. I regret exceedingly that I was unable to make Fowler's Bay. It is with difficulty that I have been able to save Bonney; he is still very weak and unable to do a day's journey; we can scarcely get him to do the short journeys we have been doing lately. For upwards of a month we have been existing upon two pounds and a half of flour cake daily, without animal food. Since we commenced the journey, all the animal food we have been able to obtain has been four wallabies. one opossum, one small duck, one pigeon, and latterly a few kangaroo mice, which were very welcome; we were anxious to find more, but we soon got out of their country.

These kangaroo mice are elegant little animals, about four inches in length, and resemble the kangaroo in shape, with a long tail terminating with a sort of brush. Their habitations are of a conical form, built with twigs and rotten wood, about six feet in diameter at the base, and rising to a height of three or four feet. When the natives discover one of these nests they surround it, treading firmly round the base in order to secure any outlet; they then remove the top of the cone, and, as the mice endeavour to escape, they kill them with the waddies which they use with such unfailing skill. When the nest is found by only a few natives, they set fire to the top of the cone, and thus secure the little animals with ease. For the last month we have been reduced to one meal a-day, and that a very small one, which has exhausted us both very much and made us almost incapable of exertion. We have now only TWO meals left to take us to Streaky Bay, which is distant from this place ONE HUNDRED MILES. We have been forced to boil the tops of the pigface, to satisfy the wants of nature. Being short of water, we boiled them in their own juice. To a hungry man they were very palatable, and, had they been boiled in fresh water, would have made a good vegetable. Yesterday we obtained a few sow-thistles, which we boiled, and found to be very good.