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John McDouall Stuart - Third Expedition

JOURNAL OF MR. STUART'S THIRD EXPEDITION (IN THE VICINITY OF LAKE TORRENS). NOVEMBER, 1859, TO JANUARY, 1860.

Friday, 18th November, Hawker Springs.

Friday, 18th November, Hawker Springs. Building a cone of stones on the top of Mount Margaret, and making other preparations for the survey. To-day very hot, wind south-east; a great deal of lightning to the south. Obtained bearings of the following points from the hill at Hawker Springs--namely, Mount Margaret, Mount Younghusband, hill at Parry Springs, Mount Charles, and Mount Stevenson.

Saturday, 19th November, Hawker Springs.

Saturday, 19th November, Hawker Springs. Sent the party on to Fanny Springs, where I intend to lay down my base-line. Went with Kekwick to the top of Mount Margaret. This hill is composed of grey and red granite, quartz, and ironstone; on the lower hill is a blue and brown stratum. I then proceeded to examine the creeks running to the east; in following one of them down we came upon another spring of water, running and very good. The creek is bounded on both sides for about a mile by nearly perpendicular cliffs, which appeared to get much lower and broken to the west. It is situated about one mile north of Mount Margaret, and runs into the Hawker Springs valley. Could see no more higher up. Followed the creek down to the opening. Proceeded about half a mile, entered another gorge, and rode up it about three-quarters of a mile; came upon another spring, running also, water excellent. Numerous native camps in the creek. Country the same as in the other creek; cliffs slate and not so high, but more broken, with watercourses between them, through which cattle could find their way to the tops of the hills, where there appears to be plenty of grass; there is also an abundance at the mouth of the gorge and on the plains. This creek also runs into the valley of the Hawker Springs. Distance from Mount Margaret, two miles and a half, 8 degrees east of north. As it was getting towards sunset I found I must make for the camp, which was about twelve miles off. Arrived after dark. Springs still as good as when I first saw them. Very tired, having had a very long day of it.

Sunday, 20th November, Fanny Springs.

Sunday, 20th November, Fanny Springs. Got up at daybreak, and went to the top of Mount Charles, on which I had ordered the men to build a cone of stones after their arrival here yesterday. On my return to the camp the men informed me that Smith had absconded during the night. He generally made a practice of sleeping some little distance from the others, when I did not see him lie down; I had checked him for it several times. It did not appear that he had gone to sleep, but waited an opportunity to steal away, taking with him the mare which he used to ride, and harness, etc., also some provisions. As I had started very early to walk to Mount Charles, his absence was not observed until some time after I had left, and being detained some hours on the top of the hill, in consequence of the atmosphere being so thick that I could not obtain my observations, it was 7 a.m. before I heard of his departure. That moment I sent Kekwick for my own horse (he being the swiftest), and ordered him to saddle, mount, pursue, overtake, and bring Smith back; but during the time he was preparing, I had time to think the matter over, and decided upon not following him, as it would only knock up my horse and detain me three or four days. Smith must have started about midnight, for I was up taking observations from 12.30 a.m. until daybreak, and neither saw nor heard any one during that time. I could ill afford to lose the time in pursuing him, situated as I was in the midst of my survey, and he being a lazy, insolent, good-for-nothing man, and, worse than all, an incorrigible liar, I could place no dependence upon him. We are better without him; he has been a very great annoyance and trouble to me from the beginning throughout the journey. What could have caused him to take such a step I am at a loss to imagine; he has had no cause to complain of bad treatment or anything of that sort; he never mentioned such a thing to the other men, nor was he heard to complain of anything. Such conduct on an expedition like ours deserves the severest punishment: there is no knowing what fatal consequences may follow such a cowardly action. Had he not stolen the mare, I should have cared little about his running away, but I am short of riding horses and have a great deal for them to do during the time I am surveying and examining the country. The vagabond went off just as the heavy work was beginning, and it was principally for that work that I engaged him. He put on a pair of new boots, leaving those he had been wearing, evidently intending to push the mare as far as she would go, expecting he would be pursued, and then leave her and walk the rest. I expect, when he reaches the settled districts, he will tell some abominable lie about the matter. If such conduct is not severely dealt with, no confidence can be placed in any man engaged in future expeditions.

Monday, 21st November, Fanny Springs.

Monday, 21st November, Fanny Springs. Kekwick and I commenced chaining the base-line from the top of Mount Charles, bearing 131 degrees. Distance chained, four miles thirty chains. I ordered H. Strong to come to me with two horses, which he did about 1.30 p.m.; we had finished the line, and were waiting for him. I had seen some country that looked very much like springs, to the north-east, a mile or so from the line; went to examine it, and found some splendid springs--one in particular is a very large fountain, about twenty yards in diameter, quite circular and apparently very deep, from which there is running a large stream of water of the very finest description; it is one of the largest reservoirs I have yet seen, three times the size of the one at the Hamilton Springs, with abundance of water for any amount of cattle; the water is running a mile below it.