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Australia Twice Traversed, The Romance of Exploration by Ernest Giles

Part 7 out of 11

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that it was distant about six sleeps from Youldeh; this, according to
our rendering, as Jimmy declared also that it was mucka close up, only
long way, we considered to be about 120 miles. Beyond Wynbring Jimmy
knew nothing whatever of the country, and I think he had a latent idea
in his mind that there really was nothing beyond it. The result of our
interview was, that I determined to send all the party back to
Fowler's Bay, except one white man and old Jimmy, also all the horses
except three, and to start with this small party and the camels to the
eastward on the following day. I selected Peter Nicholls to accompany
me. I found the boiling-point of water at the camp was 211 degrees
making its altitude above the sea 509 feet. The sandhills were about
100 feet high on the average.

The two camels and the calf, were sent to me by Sir Thomas Elder, from
Adelaide, while I was at Fowler's Bay, by an Afghan named Saleh
Mahomet, who returned to, and met me at, Beltana, by the ordinary way
of travellers. There was only a riding-saddle for the cow, the bull
having come bare-backed; I therefore had to invent a pack- or
baggage-saddle for him, and I venture to assert that 999,999 people
out of every million would rather be excused the task. In this work I
was ably seconded by Mr. Richards, who did most of the sewing and
pad-making, but Mr. Armstrong, one of the owners and manager of the
Fowler's Bay Station, though he supplied me in profusion with every
other requisite, would not let me have the size of iron I wished, and
I had to take what I could get, he thinking it the right size; and
unfortunately that which I got for the saddle-trees was not stout
enough, and, although in other respects the saddle was a brilliant
success, though made upon a totally different principle from that of
an Afghan's saddle, when the animal was loaded, the weakness of the
iron made it continually widen, and in consequence the iron pressed
down on the much-enduring creature's body and hurt him severely.

We frequently had to stop, take his load and saddle off and bend the
iron closer together again, so as to preserve some semblance of an
arch or rather two arches over his back, one before and one behind his
hump. Every time Nicholls and I went through this operation we were
afraid the iron would give, and snap in half with our pressure, and so
it would have done but that the fiery rays of the sun kept it almost
at a glowing heat. This and the nose ropes and buttons getting so
often broken, together with making new buttons from pieces of stick,
caused us many harassing delays.

On the 24th of March, 1875, we bade good-bye to the friends that had
accompanied us to this place, and who all started to return to the bay
the same day. With Peter Nicholls, old Jimmy as guide, the two camels
and calf, and three horses, I turned my back upon the Youldeh camp,
somewhat late in the day. Nicholls rode the old cow, Jimmy and I
riding a horse each, the third horse carrying a load of water. Two of
these horses were the pick of the whole mob I had; they were still
terribly frightened at the camels, and it was almost impossible to sit
my horse Chester when the camels came near him behind; the horse
carrying the water followed the two riding-horses, but towards dusk he
got frightened and bolted away into the scrubs, load of water and all.
We had only come seven miles that afternoon, and it was our first
practical acquaintance with camels; Jimmy and I had continually to
wait till Nicholls and the camels, made their appearance, and whenever
Nicholls came up he was in a fearful rage with them. The old cow that
he was riding would scarcely budge for him at all. If he beat her she
would lie down, yell, squall, spit, and roll over on her saddle, and
behave in such a manner that, neither of us knowing anything about
camels, we thought she was going to die. The sandhills were
oppressively steep, and the old wretch perspired to such a degree, and
altogether became such an unmanageable nuisance, that I began to think
camels could not be half the wonderful animals I had fondly imagined.

The bull, Mustara, behaved much better. He was a most affectionate
creature, and would kiss people all day long; but the Lord help any
one who would try to kiss the old cow, for she would cover them all
over with--well, we will call it spittle, but it is worse than that.
The calf would kiss also when caught, but did not care to be caught
too often. Mustara had a good heavy load--he followed the cow without
being fastened; the calf, with great cunning, not relishing the idea
of leaving Youldeh, would persistently stay behind and try and induce
his mother not to go on; in this he partially succeeded, for by dusk,
just as I found I had lost the pack-horse with the water, and was
waiting till Nicholls, who was following our horse tracks, came up to
us, we had travelled at no better speed than a mile an hour since we
left the camp. The two remaining horses were so restless that I was
compelled to stand and hold them while waiting, old Jimmy being away
in the darkness to endeavour to find the missing one. By the time
Nicholls arrived with the camels, guided now by the glare of a large
fire of a Mus conditor's nest which old Jimmy ignited, the horse had
been gone about two hours; thus our first night's bivouac was not a
pleasant one. There was nothing that the horses would eat, and if they
had been let go, even in hobbles, in all probability we should never
have seen them again. Old Jimmy returned after a fruitless search for
the absent horse. The camels would not feed, but lay down in a sulky
fit, the two horses continually snorting and endeavouring to break
away; and thus the night was passing away, when we heard the tinkle of
a bell--the horse we had lost having a bell on his neck--and Jimmy and
Nicholls went away through the darkness and scrubs in the direction it
proceeded from. I kept up a large fire to guide them, not that old
Jimmy required such artificial aid, but to save time; in about an hour
they returned with the missing horse. When this animal took it into
his head to bolt off he was out of earshot in no time, but it seems he
must have thought better of his proceedings, and returned of his own
accord to where he had left his mates. We were glad enough to secure
him again, and the water he carried.

The next morning we were under weigh very early, and, following the
old guide Jimmy, we went in a south-east direction towards the first
watering place that he knew, and which he said was called Chimpering.
Many times before we reached this place the old fellow seemed very
uncertain of his whereabouts, but by dodging about amongst the
sandhills--the country being all rolling hummocks of red sand covered
with dense scrubs and the universal spinifex--he managed to drop down
upon it, after we had travelled about thirty miles from Youldeh.
Chimpering consisted of a small acacia, or as we say a mulga, hollow,
the mulga being the Acacia aneura; here a few bare red granite rocks
were exposed to view. In a crevice between two of these Jimmy showed
us a small orifice, which we found, upon baling out, to contain only
three buckets of a filthy black fluid that old Jimmy declared was
water. We annoyed him fearfully by pretending we did not know what it
was. Poor old chap, he couldn't explain how angry he was, but he
managed to stammer out, "White fellow--fool; pony drink 'em." The day
was excessively hot, the thermometer stood at 106 degrees in the
shade. The horses or ponies, as universally called at Fowler's Bay,
drank the dirty water with avidity. It was early in the day when we
arrived, and so soon as the water was taken, we pushed on towards the
next place, Pylebung. At Youldeh our guide had so excited my curiosity
about this place, that I was most anxious to reach it. Jimmy said it
was not very far off.

On the night of the 26th March, just as it was getting dark and having
left Chimpering twenty-five miles behind us, we entered a piece of
bushy mulga country, the bushes being so thick that we had great
difficulty in forcing our way through it in the dark. Our guide seemed
very much in the dark also; his movements were exceedingly uncertain,
and I could see by the stars that we were winding about to all points
of the compass. At last old Jimmy stopped and said we had reached the
place where Pylebung ought to be, but it was not; and here, he said,
pointing to the ground, was to be our wurley, or camp, for the night.
When I questioned him, and asked where the water was, he only replied,
which way? This question I was altogether unable to answer, and I was
not in a very amiable frame of mind, for we had been traversing
frightful country of dense scrubs all day in parching thirst and
broiling heat. So I told Nicholls to unpack the camels while I
unsaddled the horses. All the animals seemed over-powered with
lassitude and exhaustion; the camels immediately lay down, and the
horses stood disconsolately close to them, now no longer terrified at
their proximity.

Nicholls and I extended our rugs upon the ground and lay down, and
then we discovered that old Jimmy had left the camp, and thought he
had given us the slip in the dark. We had been lying down some time
when the old fellow returned, and in the most voluble and excited
language told us he had found the water; it was, he said, "big one,
watta, mucka, pickaninny;" and in his delight at his success he began
to describe it, or try to do so, in the firelight, on the ground; he
kept saying, "big one, watta--big one, watta--watta go that way, watta
go this way, and watta go that way, and watta go this way," turning
himself round and round, so that I thought it must be a lake or swamp
he was trying to describe. However, we got the camels and horses
resaddled and packed, and took them where old Jimmy led us. The moon
had now risen above the high sandhills that surrounded us, and we soon
emerged upon a piece of open ground where there was a large white
clay-pan, or bare patch of white clay soil, glistening in the moon's
rays, and upon this there appeared an astonishing object--something
like the wall of an old house or a ruined chimney. On arriving, we saw
that it was a circular wall or dam of clay, nearly five feet high,
with a segment open to the south to admit and retain the rain-water
that occasionally flows over the flat into this artificial receptacle.

In spite of old Jimmy's asseverations, there was only sufficient water
to last one or two days, and what there was, was very thick and
whitish-coloured. The six animals being excessively thirsty, the
volume of the fluid gradually diminished in the moonlight before our
eyes; the camels and horses' legs and noses were all pushing against
one another while they drank.

This wall, or dam, constructed by the aboriginals, is the first piece
of work of art or usefulness that I had ever seen in all my travels in
Australia; and if I had only heard of it, I should seriously have
reflected upon the credibility of my informant, because no attempts of
skill, or ingenuity, on the part of Australian natives, applied to
building, or the storage of water, have previously been met with, and
I was very much astonished at beholding one now. This piece of work
was two feet thick on the top of the wall, twenty yards in the length
of its sweep, and at the bottom, where the water lodged, the
embankment was nearly five feet thick. The clay of which this dam was
composed had been dug out of the hole in which the water lay, with
small native wooden shovels, and piled up to its present dimensions.

Immediately around this singular monument of native industry, there
are a few hundred acres of very pretty country, beautifully grassed
and ornamented with a few mulga (acacia) trees, standing picturesquely
apart. The spot lies in a basin or hollow, and is surrounded in all
directions by scrubs and rolling sandhills. How we got to it I can
scarcely tell, as our guide kept constantly changing his course, so
that the compass was of little or no use, and it was only by the
sextant I could discover our whereabouts; by it I found we had come
fifty-eight miles from Youldeh on a bearing of south 68 degrees east,
we being now in latitude 30 degrees 43' and longitude 132 degrees 44'.
There was so little water here that I was unable to remain more than
one day, during which the thermometer indicated 104 degrees in the

To the eastward of this dam there was a sandhill with a few black oaks
(casuarinas) growing upon it, about a quarter of a mile away. A number
of stones of a calcareous nature were scattered about on it; on going
up this hill the day we rested the animals here, I was surprised to
find a broad path had been cleared amongst the stones for some dozens
of yards, an oak-tree at each end being the terminal points. At the
foot of each tree at the end of the path the largest stones were
heaped; the path was indented with the tramplings of many natives'
feet, and I felt sure that it was one of those places where the men of
this region perform inhuman mutilations upon the youths and maidens of
their tribe. I questioned old Jimmy about these matters, but he was
like all others of his race, who, while admitting the facts, protest
that they, individually, have never officiated at such doings.

Upon leaving Pylebung Jimmy informed me that Mowling was the next
watering-place, and said it lay nearly east from here; but I found we
went nearly north-east to reach it; this we did in seventeen miles,
the country through which we passed being, as usual, all sandhills and
scrub. Mowling consisted of a small acacia hollow, where there were a
few boulders of granite; in these were two small holes, both as dry as
the surface of the rocks in their vicinity. On our route from
Pylebung, we had seen the tracks of a single bullock; he also had
found his way to Mowling, and probably left it howling; but it must
have been some time since his visit.

From hence old Jimmy led us a good deal south of east, and we arrived
at another exposure of granite rocks in the dense scrubs. This place
Jimmy called Whitegin. It was ten or eleven miles from Mowling. There
was a small crevice between the rounded boulders of rock, which held
barely sufficient water for the three horses, the camels getting none,
though they persisted in bothering us all the afternoon, and appeared
very thirsty. They kept coming up to the camp perpetually, pulling our
canvas bucket and tin utensils about with their lips, and I found the
cunning of a camel in endeavouring to get water at the camp far
exceeded that of any horse.

There were a few dozen acres of pretty ground here with good grass and
herbage on it. We had a great deal of trouble to-day in getting the
camels along; the foal or calf belonging to the old riding-cow got
itself entangled in its mother's nose-rope, and as we did not then
understand the management of camels, and how their nose-ropes should
be adjusted, we could not prevent the little brute from tearing the
button clean through the cartilage of the poor old cow's nose; this
not only caused the animal frightful pain, but made her more obstinate
and stubborn and harder to get along than before. The agony the poor
creature suffered from flies must have been excruciating, as after
this accident they entered her nostrils in such numbers that she often
hung back, and would cough and snort until she had ejected a great
quantity of blood and flies from her nose.

For the last few miles we had not been annoyed by quite so much
spinifex as usual, but the vast amount of dead wood and underbrush was
very detrimental to the progress of the camels, who are not usually in
the habit of lifting their feet very high, though having the power,
they learn it in time, but not before their toes got constantly
entangled with the dead sticks, which made them very sore.

The scrub here and all the way we had come consisted mostly of mallee
(Eucalyptus dumosa) mulga, prickly bushes (hakea), some
grevillea-trees, and a few oaks (casuarinas). This place, Whitegin,
was eighty-five miles straight from Youldeh; we had, however,
travelled about 100 miles to reach it, as Jimmy kept turning and
twisting about in the scrubs in all directions. On leaving Whitegin we
travelled several degrees to north of east, the thermometer in the
shade while we rested there going up to 103 degrees. Jimmy said the
next place we should get water at was Wynbring, and from what we could
make out of his jargon, he seemed to imply that Wynbring was a large
watercourse descending from a mountain and having a stony bed; he also
said we were now close up, and that it was only a pickaninny way.
However, the shades of night descended upon us once more in the scrubs
of this desert, and we were again compelled to encamp in a place
lonely, and without water, amidst the desolations of this
scrub-enthroned tract. Choking with thirst and sleepless with anxiety,
we pass the hours of night; no dews descend upon this heated place,
and though towards dawn a slightly cooler temperature is felt, the
reappearance of the sun is now so near, that there has been no time
for either earth or man to be benefited by it. Long before the sun
himself appears, those avant-couriers of his fiery might, heated glow,
and feverish breeze, came rustling through the foliage of the
mallee-trees, which give out the semblance of a mournful sigh, as
though they too suffered from the heat and thirst of this desolate
region, in which they are doomed by fate to dwell, and as though they
desired to let the wanderers passing amongst them know, that they also
felt, and were sorry for, our woes.

The morning of March 31st was exceedingly hot, the thermometer at dawn
standing at 86 degrees. We were up and after the camels and horses
long before daylight, tracking them by the light of burning torches of
great bunches and boughs of the mallee trees--these burn almost as
well green as dry, from the quantity of aromatic eucalyptic oil
contained in them--and enormous plots of spinifex which we lighted as
we passed.

Having secured all the animals, we started early, and were moving
onwards before sunrise. From Whitegin I found we had come on a nearly
north-east course, and at twenty-eight miles from thence the scrubs
fell off a trifle in height and density. This morning our guide
travelled much straighter than was usual with him, and it was evident
he had now no doubt that he was going in the right direction. About
ten o'clock, after we had travelled thirteen or fourteen miles, Jimmy
uttered an exclamation, pointed out something to us, and declared that
it was Wynbring. Then I could at once perceive how excessively
inaccurate, the old gentleman's account of Wynbring had been, for
instead of its being a mountain, it was simply a round bare mass of
stone, standing in the centre of an open piece of country, surrounded
as usual by the scrubs. When we arrived at the rock, we found the
large creek channel, promised us had microscopicated itself down to a
mere rock-hole, whose dimensions were not very great. The rock itself
was a bare expanse of granite, an acre or two in extent, and was
perhaps fifty feet high, while the only receptacle for water about it
was a crevice forty feet long, by four feet wide, with a depth of six
feet in its deepest part. The hole was not full, but it held an ample
supply for all our present requirements.

There were a few low sandhills near, ornamented with occasional
mulga-trees, and they made the place very pretty and picturesque.
There were several old and new native gunyahs, or houses, if such a
term can be applied to these insignificant structures. Australian
aborigines are a race who do not live in houses at all, but still the
common instincts of humanity induce all men to try and secure some
spot of earth which, for a time at least, they may call home; and
though the nomadic inhabitants or owners of these Australian wilds, do
not remain for long in any one particular place, in consequence of the
game becoming too wild or destroyed, or water being used up or
evaporated, yet, wherever they are located, every man or head of a
family has his home and his house, to which he returns in after
seasons. The natives in this, as in most other parts of Australia,
seldom hunt without making perpetual grass or spinifex fires, and the
traveller in these wilds may be always sure that the natives are in
the neighbourhood when he can see the smokes, but it by no means
follows that because there are smokes there must be water. An
inversion of the terms would be far more correct, and you might safely
declare that because there is water there are sure to be smokes, and
because there are smokes there are sure to be fires and because there
are fires there are sure to be natives, the present case being no
exception to the rule, as several columns of smoke appeared in various
directions. Old Jimmy's native name was Nanthona; in consequence he
was generally called Anthony, but he liked neither; he preferred
Jimmy, and asked me always to call him so. When at Youldeh the old
fellow had mentioned this spot, Wynbring, as the farthest water he
knew to the eastwards, and now that we had arrived at it, he declared
that beyond it there was nothing; it was the ultima thule of all his
geographical ideas; he had never seen, heard, or thought of anything
beyond it. It was certainly a most agreeable little oasis, and an
excellent spot for an explorer to come to in such a frightful region.
Here were the three requisites that constitute an explorer's
happiness--that is to say, wood, water, and grass, there being
splendid green feed and herbage on the few thousand acres of open
ground around the rock. The old black guide had certainly brought us
to this romantic and secluded little spot, with, I suppose I may say,
unerring precision, albeit he wound about so much on the road, and
made the distance far greater than it should have been. I was,
however, struck with admiration at his having done so at all, and how
he or any other human being, not having the advantages of science at
his command to teach him, by the use of the heavenly bodies, how to
find the position of any locality, could possibly return to the places
we had visited in such a wilderness, especially as it was done by the
recollection of spots which, to a white man, have no special features
and no guiding points, was really marvellous. We had travelled at
least 120 miles eastward from Youldeh, and when there, this old fellow
had told us that he had not visited any of the places he was going to
take me to since his boyhood; this at the very least must have been
forty years ago, for he was certainly fifty, if not seventy, years
old. The knowledge possessed by these children of the desert is
preserved owing to the fact that their imaginations are untrammelled,
the denizens of the wilderness, having their mental faculties put to
but few uses, and all are concentrated on the object of obtaining food
for themselves and their offspring. Whatever ideas they possess, and
they are by no means dull or backward in learning new ones, are ever
keen and young, and Nature has endowed them with an undying mental
youth, until their career on earth is ended. As says a poet, speaking
of savages or men in a state of nature:--

"There the passions may revel unfettered,
And the heart never speak but in truth;
And the intellect, wholly unlettered,
Be bright with the freedom of youth."

Assuredly man in a savage state, is by no means the unhappiest of
mortals. Old Jimmy's faculties of memory were put to the test several
times during the eight days we were travelling from Youldeh to this
rock. Sometimes when leading us through the scrubs, and having
travelled for some miles nearly east, he would notice a tree or a
sandhill, or something that he remembered, and would turn suddenly
from that point in an entirely different direction, towards some high
and severe sandhill; here he would climb a tree. After a few minutes'
gazing about, he would descend, mount his horse, and go off on some
new line, and in the course of a mile or so he would stop at a tree,
and tell us that when a little boy he got a 'possum out of a hole
which existed in it. At another place he said his mother was bitten by
a wild dog, which she was digging out of a hole in the ground; and
thus we came to Wynbring at last.

A conspicuous mountain--indeed the only object upon which the eye
could rest above the dense scrubs that surrounded us--bore south 52
degrees east from this rock, and I supposed it was Mount Finke. Our
advent disturbed a number of natives; their fresh footprints were
everywhere about the place, and our guide not being at ease in his
mind as to what sort of reception he might get from the owners of this
demesne, told me if I would let him have a gun, he would go and hunt
them up, and try to induce some of them to come to the camp. The old
chap had but limited experience of firearms, so I gave him an unloaded
gun, as he might have shot himself, or any other of the natives,
without intending to do any harm. Away he went, and returned with five
captives, an antiquated one-eyed old gentleman, with his three wives,
and one baby belonging to the second wife, who had been a woman of
considerable beauty. She was now rather past her prime. What the
oldest wife could ever have been like, it was impossible to guess, as
now she seemed more like an old she-monkey than anything else. The
youngest was in the first flush of youth and grace. The new old man
was very tall, and had been very big and powerful, but he was now
shrunken and grey with age. He ordered his wives to sit down in the
shade of a bush near our camp; this they did. I walked towards the old
man, when he immediately threw his aged arms round me, and clasped me
rapturously to his ebony breast. Then his most ancient wife followed
his example, clasping me in the same manner. The second wife was
rather incommoded in her embrace by the baby in her arms, and it
squalled horridly the nearer its mother put it to me. The third and
youngest wife, who was really very pretty, appeared enchantingly
bashful, but what was her bashfulness compared to mine, when compelled
for mere form's sake to enfold in my arms a beautiful and naked young
woman? It was really a distressing ordeal. She showed her appreciation
of our company by the glances of her black and flashing eyes, and the
exposure of two rows of beautifully even and pearly teeth.

However charming woman may look in a nude or native state, with all
her youthful graces about her, still the poetic line, that beauty
unadorned, adorned the most, is not entirely true. Woman never appears
so thoroughly charming as when her graces are enveloped in a becoming
dress. These natives all seemed anxious that I should give them names,
and I took upon myself the responsibility of christening them. The
young beauty I called Polly, the mother Mary, the baby Kitty, the
oldest woman Judy, and to the old man I gave the name of Wynbring
Tommy, as an easy one for him to remember and pronounce. There exists
amongst the natives of this part of the continent, an ancient and
Oriental custom which either compels or induces the wife or wives of a
man who is in any way disfigured in form or feature to show their
love, esteem, or obedience, by becoming similarly disfigured, on the
same principle that Sindbad the Sailor was buried with his wife. In
this case the two elder wives of this old man had each relinquished an
eye, and no doubt the time was soon approaching when the youngest
would also show her conjugal fidelity and love by similar mutilation,
unless the old heathen should happen to die shortly and she become
espoused to some other, rejoicing in the possession of a full
complement of eyes--a consummation devoutly to be wished.

The position of this rock and watering-place I found to be in latitude
30 degrees 32' and longitude 133 degrees 30'. The heat still continued
very great, the thermometer at its highest reading never indicating
less than 104 degrees in the shade while we were here. The flies at
this place, and indeed for weeks before we reached it, were terribly
numerous, and we were troubled also with myriads of the large March
flies, those horrid pests about twice the size of the blowfly, and
which bite men, horses, and camels, and all other animals
indiscriminately. These wretches would not allow either us or the
animals a moment's respite, from dawn to dusk; they almost ate the
poor creatures alive, and kept them in a state of perpetual motion in
their hobbles during daylight all the while we were here. In the
daytime it was only by continued use of our hands, in waving a
handkerchief or bough, that we kept them partially off ourselves, for
with all our efforts to drive them away, we were continually bitten
and stung almost to madness. I have often been troubled by these flies
in other parts of Australia, but I never experienced so much pain and
annoyance as at this place. The hideous droning noise which a
multitude of these insects make is quite enough to destroy one's
peace, but when their incessant bites are added, existence becomes a

Since we left Youldeh, and there also, the days had been frightfully
hot, and the nights close, cloudy, and sultry. The only currents of
air that ever stirred the foliage of the trees in the daytime were
like the breath from a furnace, while at night there was hardly any at
all. The 1st of April, the last day we remained here, was the hottest
day we had felt. Life was almost insupportable, and I determined to
leave the place upon the morrow. There had evidently been some rain at
this rock lately, as the grass and herbage were green and luxuriant,
and the flies so numerous. It was most fortunate for us, as my
subsequent narrative will show, that we had some one to guide us to
this spot, which I found by observation lay almost east of Youldeh,
and was distant from that depot 110 miles in a straight line. Old
Jimmy knew nothing whatever of the region which lay beyond, and though
I endeavoured to get him to ask the old man and his wives where any
other waters existed, all the information I could gather from these
persons was, that there was a big mountain and no water at it. The old
man at last found enough English to say, "Big fellow Poonta (stones,
hills, or mountains) and mucka carpee," which means no water. I gave
these poor people a little damper and some tea each, and Polly some
sugar, when they departed. Old Jimmy seemed very unwilling to go any
farther eastwards, giving me to understand that it was a far better
plan to return to Fowler's Bay, and that he would show me some new
watering-places if I would only follow him. To this, of course, I
turned a deaf ear.

The nearest water on the route I desired to travel, was at Sir Thomas
Elder's cattle station, at the Finniss Springs, under the Hermit Hill,
distant from this rock about 250 miles in a straight line; but as the
mountain to the south-east looked so conspicuous and inviting, I
determined to visit it, in spite of what the old black fellow had said
about there being no water, though it lay considerably out of the
straight road to where I wanted to go. It looked high and rugged, and
I thought to find water in some rock-hole or crevice about it.


Leave Wynbring.
The horses.
Mountains of sand.
Mount Finke.
One horse succumbs.
Torchlight tracking.
Trouble with the camels.
A low mount.
Dry salt lagoons.
200 miles yet from water.
Death of Chester.
The last horse.
A steede, a steede.
Ships of the desert.
Reflections at night.
Death or Water.
The Hermit Hill.
Black shepherds and shepherdesses.
The Finniss Springs.
Victims to the bush.
Footprints on the sands of time.
Alec Ross.
Reach Beltana.

On the 2nd April we departed from this friendly depot at Wynbring
Rock, taking our three horses, the two camels and the calf. The
morning was as hot as fire; at midday we watered all our animals, and
having saddled and packed them, we left the place behind us. On the
two camels we carried as much water as we had vessels to hold it, the
quantity being nearly fifty gallons. The horses were now on more
friendly terms with them, so that they could be led by a person on
horseback. Old Jimmy, now no longer a guide, was not permitted to take
the lead, but rode behind, to see that nothing fell off the camels'
saddles. I rode in advance, on my best horse Chester, a fine, well-set
chestnut cob, a horse I was very fond of, as he had proved himself so
good. Nicholls rode a strong young grey horse called Formby; he also
had proved himself to my satisfaction to be a good one. Jimmy was
mounted on an old black horse, that was a fine ambler, the one that
bolted away with the load of water the first night we started from
Youldeh. He had not stood the journey from Youldeh at all well; the
other two were quite fresh and hearty when we left Wynbring.

By the evening of the 2nd we had made only twenty-two miles. We found
the country terrific; the ground rose into sandhills so steep and
high, that all our animals were in a perfect lather of sweat. The
camels could hardly be got along at all. At night, where we were
compelled by darkness to encamp, there was nothing for the horses to
eat, so the poor brutes had to be tied up, lest they should ramble
back to Wynbring. There was plenty of food for the camels, as they
could eat the leaves of some of the bushes, but they were too sulky to
eat because they were tied up. The bull continually bit his nose-rope
through, and made several attempts to get away, the calf always going
with him, leaving his mother: this made her frantic to get away too.
The horses got frightened, and were snorting and jumping about, trying
to break loose all night. The spot we were in was a hollow, between
two high sandhills, and not a breath of air relieved us from the
oppression of the atmosphere. Peter Nicholls and I were in a state of
thirst and perspiration the whole night, running about after the
camels and keeping the horses from breaking away. If the cow had got
loose, we could not have prevented the camels clearing off. I was
never more gratified than at the appearance of the next morning's
dawn, as it enabled us to move away from this dreadful place. It was
impossible to travel through this region at night, even by moonlight;
we should have lost our eyes upon the sticks and branches of the
direful scrubs if we had attempted it, besides tearing our skin and
clothes to pieces also. Starting at earliest dawn, and traversing
formidably steep and rolling waves of sand, we at length reached the
foot of the mountain we had been striving for, in twenty-three miles,
forty-five from Wynbring. I could not help thinking it was the most
desolate heap on the face of the earth, having no water or places that
could hold it. The elevation of this eminence was over 1000 feet above
the surrounding country, and over 2000 feet above the sea. The country
visible from its summit was still enveloped in dense scrubs in every
direction, except on a bearing a few degrees north of east, where some
low ridges appeared. I rode my horse Chester many miles over the
wretched stony slopes at the foot of this mountain, and tied him up to
trees while I walked to its summit, and into gullies and crevices
innumerable, but no water rewarded my efforts, and it was very evident
that what the old black fellow Wynbring Tommy, had said, about its
being waterless was only too true. After wasting several hours in a
fruitless search for water, we left the wretched mount, and steered
away for the ridges I had seen from its summit. They appeared to be
about forty-five miles away. As it was so late in the day when we left
the mountain, we got only seven miles from it when darkness again
overtook us, and we had to encamp.

On the following day, the old horse Jimmy was riding completely gave
in from the heat and thirst and fearful nature of the country we were
traversing, having come only sixty-five miles from Wynbring. We could
neither lead, ride, nor drive him any farther. We had given each horse
some water from the supply the camels carried, when we reached the
mountain, and likewise some on the previous night, as the heavy
sandhills had so exhausted them, this horse having received more than
the others. Now he lay down and stretched out his limbs in the agony
of thirst and exhaustion. I was loth to shoot the poor old creature,
and I also did not like the idea of leaving him to die slowly of
thirst; but I thought perhaps if I left him, he might recover
sufficiently to travel at night at his own pace, and thus return to
Wynbring, although I also knew from former sad experience in Gibson's
Desert, that, like Badger and Darkie, it was more than probable he
could never escape. His saddle was hung in the fork of a
sandal-wood-tree, not the sandal-wood of commerce, and leaving him
stretched upon the burning sand, we moved away. Of course he was never
seen or heard of after.

That night we encamped only a few miles from the ridges, at a place
where there was a little dry grass, and where both camels and horses
were let go in hobbles. Long before daylight on the following morning,
old Jimmy and I were tracking the camels by torchlight, the
horse-bells indicating that those animals were not far off; the
camel-bells had gone out of hearing early in the night. Old Jimmy was
a splendid tracker; indeed, no human being in the world but an
Australian aboriginal, and that a half or wholly wild one, could track
a camel on some surfaces, for where there is any clayey soil, the
creature leaves no more mark on the ground than an ant--black children
often amuse themselves by tracking ants--and to follow such marks as
they do leave, by firelight, was marvellous. Occasionally they would
leave some marks that no one could mistake, where they passed over
sandy ground; but for many hundreds beyond, it would appear as though
they must have flown over the ground and had never put their feet to
the earth at all. By the time daylight appeared, old Jimmy had tracked
them about three miles; then he went off, apparently quite regardless
of any tracks at all, walking at such a pace, that I could only keep
up with him by occasionally running. We came upon the camels at length
at about six miles from the camp, amongst some dry clay-pans, and they
were evidently looking for water. The old cow, which was the only
riding camel, was so poor and bony, it was too excruciating to ride
her without a saddle or a pad of some sort, which now we had not got,
so we took it in turns to ride the bull, and he made many attempts to
shake us off; but as he had so much hair on his hump, we could cling
on by that as we sat behind it. It was necessary for whoever was
walking to lead him by his nose-rope, or he would have bolted away and
rubbed his encumbrance off against a tree, or else rolled on it. In
consequence of the camels having strayed so far, it was late in the
day when we again started, the two horses looking fearfully hollow and
bad. The morning as usual was very hot. There not being now a horse a
piece to ride, and the water which one camel had carried having been
drank by the animals, Peter Nicholls rode the old cow again, both she
and the bull being much more easy to manage and get along than when we
started from Youldeh. Our great difficulty was with the nose-ropes;
the calf persisted in getting in front of its mother and twisting her
nose-rope round his neck, also in placing itself right in between the
fore-legs of the bull. This would make him stop, pull back and break
his rope, or else the button would tear through the nose; this caused
detention a dozen times a day, and I was so annoyed with the young
animal, I could scarcely keep from shooting it many times. The young
creature was most endearing now, when caught, and evidently suffered
greatly from thirst.

We reached the ridges in seven miles from where we had camped, and had
now come ninety miles from Wynbring. We could find no water at these
ridges, as there were no places that could hold it. Here we may be
said to have entered on a piece of open country, and as it was
apparently a change for the better from the scrubs, I was very glad to
see it, especially as we hoped to obtain water on it. Our horses were
now in a terrible state of thirst, for the heat was great, and the
region we had traversed was dreadfully severe, and though they had
each been given some of the water we brought with us, yet we could not
afford anything like enough to satisfy them. From the top of the ridge
a low mount or hill bore 20 degrees north of east; Mount Finke, behind
us, bore 20 degrees south of west. I pushed on now for the hill in
advance, as it was nearly on the route I desired to travel. The
country being open, we made good progress, and though we could not
reach it that night, we were upon its summit early the next morning,
it being about thirty miles from the ridges we had left, a number of
dry, salt, white lagoons intervening. This hill was as dry and
waterless as the mount and ridges, we had left behind us in the
scrubs. Dry salt lagoons lay scattered about in nearly all directions,
glittering with their saline encrustations, as the sun's rays flashed
upon them. To the southward two somewhat inviting isolated hills were
seen; in all other directions the horizon appeared gloomy in the
extreme. We had now come 120 miles from water, and the supply we had
started with was almost exhausted; the country we were in could give
us none, and we had but one, of two courses to pursue, either to
advance still further into this terrible region, or endeavour to
retreat to Wynbring. No doubt the camels could get back alive, but
ourselves and the horses could never have recrossed the frightful bed
of rolling sand-mounds, that intervened between us and the water we
had left. My poor old black companion was aghast at such a region, and
also at what he considered my utter folly in penetrating into it at
all. Peter Nicholls, I was glad to find, was in good spirits, and
gradually changing his opinions with regard to the powers and value of
the camels. They had received no water themselves, though they had
laboured over the hideous sandhills, laden with the priceless fluid
for the benefit of the horses, and it was quite evident the latter
could not much longer live, in such a desert, whilst the former were
now far more docile and obedient to us than when we started. Whenever
the horses were given any water, we had to tie the camels up at some
distance. The expression in these animals' eyes when they saw the
horses drinking was extraordinary; they seemed as though they were
going to speak, and had they done so, I know well they would have
said, "You give those useless little pigmies the water that cannot
save them, and you deny it to us, who have carried it, and will yet be
your only saviours in the end." After we had fruitlessly searched here
for water, having wasted several hours, we left this wretched hill,
and I continued steering upon the same course we had come, namely,
north 75 degrees east, as that bearing would bring me to the
north-western extremity of Lake Torrens, still distant over 120 miles.
It was very probable we should get no water, as none is known to exist
where we should touch upon its shores. Thus we were, after coming 120
miles from Wynbring, still nearly 200 miles from the Finniss Springs,
the nearest water that I knew. It was now a matter of life and death;
could we reach the Finniss at all? We could neither remain here, nor
should we survive if we attempted to retreat; to advance was our only
chance of escape from the howling waste in which we were almost
entombed; we therefore moved onwards, as fast and as far as we could.
On the following morning, before dawn, I had been lying wakefully
listening for the different sounds of the bells on the animals' necks,
and got up to brighten up the camp fire with fresh wood, when the
strange sound of the quacking of a wild duck smote upon my ear. The
blaze of firelight had evidently attracted the creature, which
probably thought it was the flashing of water, as it flew down close
to my face, and almost precipitated itself into the flames; but
discovering its error, it wheeled away upon its unimpeded wings, and
left me wondering why this denizen of the air and water, should be
sojourning around the waterless encampment of such hapless travellers
as we. The appearance of such a bird raised my hopes, and forced me to
believe that we must be in the neighbourhood of some water, and that
the coming daylight would reveal to us the element which alone could
save us and our unfortunate animals from death. But, alas! how many
human hopes and aspirations are continually doomed to perish
unfulfilled; and were it not that "Hope springs eternal in the human
breast," all faith, all energy, all life, and all success would be at
an end, as then we should know that most of our efforts are futile,
whereas now we hope they may attain complete fruition. Yet, on the
other hand, we learn that the fruit of dreamy hoping is waking blank
despair. We were again in a region of scrubs as bad and as dense as
those I hoped and thought, I had left behind me.

Leaving our waterless encampment, we continued our journey, a
melancholy, thirsty, silent trio. At 150 miles from Wynbring my poor
horse Chester gave in, and could go no farther; for some miles I had
walked, and we had the greatest difficulty in forcing him along, but
now he was completely exhausted and rolled upon the ground in the
death agony of thirst. It was useless to waste time over the
unfortunate creature; it was quite impossible for him ever to rise
again, so in mercy I fired a revolver-bullet at his forehead, as he
gasped spasmodically upon the desert sand: a shiver passed through his
frame, and we left him dead in the lonely spot.

We had now no object but to keep pushing on; our supply of water was
all but gone, and we were in the last stage of thirst and
wretchedness. By the night of that day we had reached a place 168
miles from Wynbring, and in all that distance not a drop of water had
been found. We had one unfortunate horse left, the grey called Formby,
and that poor creature held out as long and on as little water as I am
sure is possible in such a heated and horrid region. On the following
morning the poor beast came up to Nicholls and I, old Jimmy being
after the camels which were close by, and began to smell us, then
stood gazing vacantly at the fire; a thought seemed to strike him that
it was water, and he put his mouth down into the flames. This idea
seems to actuate all animals when in the last stage of thirst. We were
choking with thirst ourselves, but we agreed to sacrifice a small
billyful of our remaining stock of water for this unfortunate last
victim to our enterprise. We gave him about two quarts, and bitterly
we regretted it later, hoping he might still be able to stagger on to
where water might be found; but vain was the hope and vain the gift,
for the creature that had held up so long and so well, swallowed up
the last little draught we gave, fell down and rolled and shivered in
agony, as Chester had done, and he died and was at rest. A singular
thing about this horse was that his eyes had sunk into his head until
they were all but hidden. For my own part, in such a region and in
such a predicament as we were placed, I would not unwillingly have
followed him into the future.

The celebrated Sir Thomas Mitchell, one of Australia's early
explorers, in one of his journeys, after finding a magnificent country
watered by large rivers, and now the long-settled abodes of
civilisation, mounted on a splendid horse, bursts into an old cavalier
song, a verse of which says:

"A steede, a steede of matchless speede,
A sworde of metal keane;
All else to noble mindes is drosse;
All else on earthe is meane."

I don't know what he would have thought had he been in my case, with
his matchless "steede" dead, and in the pangs of thirst himself, his
"sworde of metal keane" a useless encumbrance, 168 miles from the last
water, and not knowing where the next might be; he would have to admit
that the wonderful beasts which now alone remained to us were by no
means to be accounted "meane," for these patient and enduring
creatures, which were still alive, had tasted no water since leaving
Wynbring, and, though the horses were dead and gone, stood up with
undiminished powers--appearing to be as well able now to continue on
and traverse this wide-spread desert as when they left the last oasis
behind. We had nothing now to depend upon but our two "ships of the
desert," which we were only just beginning to understand. I had been a
firm believer in them from the first, and had many an argument with
Nicholls about them; his opinion had now entirely altered. At Youldeh
he had called them ugly, useless, lazy brutes, that were not to be
compared to horses for a moment; but now that the horses were dead
they seemed more agreeable and companionable than ever the horses had

When Jimmy brought them to the camp they looked knowingly at the
prostrate form of the dead horse; they kneeled down close beside it
and received their loads, now indeed light enough, and we went off
again into the scrubs, riding and walking by turns, our lives entirely
depending on the camels; Jimmy had told us they were calmly feeding
upon some of the trees and bushes in the neighbourhood when he got
them. That they felt the pangs of thirst there can be no doubt--and
what animal can suffer thirst like a camel?--as whenever they were
brought to the camp they endeavoured to fumble about the empty
water-bags, tin pannikins, and any other vessel that ever had
contained water.

The days of toil, the nights of agony and feverish unrest, that I
spent upon this journey I can never forget. After struggling through
the dense scrubs all day we were compelled perforce to remain in them
all night. It was seldom now we spoke to one another, we were too
thirsty and worn with lassitude to converse, and my reflections the
night after the last horse died, when we had come nearly 200 miles
without water, of a necessity assumed a gloomy tinge, although I am
the least gloomy-minded of the human race, for we know that the tone
of the mind is in a great measure sympathetic with the physical
condition of the body. If the body is weak from exhaustion and
fatigue, the brain and mind become dull and sad, and the thoughts of a
wanderer in such a desolate region as this, weary with a march in heat
and thirst from daylight until dark, who at last sinks upon the heated
ground to watch and wait until the blazing sunlight of another day,
perhaps, may bring him to some place of rest, cannot be otherwise than
of a mournful kind. The mind is forced back upon itself, and becomes
filled with an endless chain of thoughts which wander through the
vastness of the star-bespangled spheres; for here, the only things to
see, the only things to love, and upon which the eye may gaze, and
from which the beating heart may gather some feelings of repose, are
the glittering bands of brilliant stars shining in the azure vault of
heaven. From my heated couch of sandy earth I gazed helplessly but
rapturously upon them, wondering at the enormity of occupied and
unoccupied space, revolving thoughts of past, present, and future
existencies, and of how all that is earthly fadeth away. But can that
be the case with our world itself, with the sun from which it obtains
its light and life, or with the starry splendours of the worlds beyond
the sun? Will they, can they, ever fade? They are not spiritual;
celestial still we call them, but they are material all, in form and
nature. We are both; yet we must fade and they remain. How is the
understanding to decide which of the two holds the main spring and
thread of life? Certainly we know that the body decays, and even the
paths of glory lead but to the grave; but we also know that the mind
becomes enfeebled with the body, that the aged become almost idiotic
in their second childhood; and if the body is to rise again, how is
poor humanity to distinguish the germ of immortality? Philosophies and
speculations upon the future have been subjects of the deepest thought
for the highest minds of every generation of mankind; and although
creeds have risen and sunk, and old religions and philosophies have
passed away, the dubious minds of mortal men still hang and harp upon
the theme of what can be the Great Beyond. The various creeds, of the
many different nations of the earth induce them to believe in as many
differing notions of heaven, but all and each appear agreed upon the
point that up into the stars alone their hoped-for heaven is to be
found; and if all do not, in this agree, still there are some aspiring
minds high soaring above sublunary things, above the petty disputes of
differing creeds, and the vague promises they hold out to their
votaries, who behold, in the firmament above, mighty and mysterious
objects for veneration and love.

These are the gorgeous constellations set thick with starry gems, the
revolving orbs of densely crowded spheres, the systems beyond systems,
clusters beyond clusters, and universes beyond universes, all
brilliantly glittering with various coloured light, all wheeling and
swaying, floating and circling round some distant, unknown, motive,
centre-point, in the pauseless measures of a perpetual dance of joy,
keeping time and tune with most ecstatic harmony, and producing upon
the enthralled mind the not imaginary music of the spheres.

Then comes the burning wish to know how come these mighty mysterious
and material things about. We are led to suppose as our own minds and
bodies progressively improve from a state of infancy to a
certain-point, so it is with all things we see in nature; but the
method of the original production of life and matter is beyond the
powers of man to discover. Therefore, we look forward with anxiety and
suspense, hope, love, and fear to a future time, having passed through
the portals of the valley of death, from this existence, we shall
enjoy life after life, in new body, after new body, passing through
new sphere, after new sphere, arriving nearer and nearer to the
fountain-head of all perfection, the divinely great Almighty source of
light and life, of hope and love.

These were some of my reflections throughout that weary night; the
stars that in their constellations had occupied the zenith, now have
passed the horizon's verge; other and fresh glittering bands now
occupy their former places--at last the dawn begins to glimmer in the
east, and just as I could have fallen into the trance of sleep, it was
time for the race for life, again to wander on, so soon as our animals
could be found.

This was the eighth day of continued travel from Wynbring; our water
was now all gone, and we were yet more than 100 miles from the Finniss
Springs. I had been compelled to enforce a most rigid and inadequate
economy with our water during our whole march; when we left the camp
where the last horse died very little over three pints remained; we
were all very bad, old Jimmy was nearly dead. At about four o'clock in
the afternoon we came to a place where there was a considerable fall
into a hollow, here was some bare clay--in fact it was an enormous
clay-pan, or miniature lake-bed; the surface was perfectly dry, but in
a small drain or channel, down which water could descend in times of
rain, by the blessing of Providence I found a supply of yellow water.
Nicholls had previously got strangely excited--in fact the poor fellow
was light-headed from thirst, and at one place where there was no
water he threw up his hat and yelled out "Water, water!" he walking a
little in advance; we had really passed the spot where the water was,
but when Nicholls gave the false information I jumped down off my
camel and ran up to him, only to be grievously disappointed; but as I
went along I caught sight of a whitish light through the mulga trees
partially behind me, and without saying a word for fear of fresh
disappointment, I walked towards what I had seen; Nicholls and Jimmy,
who both seemed dazed, went on with the camels.

What I had seen, was a small sheet of very white water, and I could
not resist the temptation to drink before I went after them. By the
time I had drank they had gone on several hundred yards; when I called
to them and flung up my hat, they were so stupid with thirst, and
disappointment, that they never moved towards me, but stood staring
until I took the camels' nose-rope in my hand, and, pointing to my
knees, which were covered with yellow mud, simply said "water"; then,
when I led the camels to the place, down these poor fellows went on
their knees, in the mud and water, and drank, and drank, and I again
knelt down and drank, and drank. Oh, dear reader, if you have never
suffered thirst you can form no conception what agony it is. But talk
about drinking, I couldn't have believed that even thirsty camels
could have swallowed such enormous quantities of fluid.

It was delightful to watch the poor creatures visibly swelling before
our eyes. I am sure the big bull Mustara must have taken down fifty
gallons of water, for even after the first drink, when we took their
saddles off at the camp, they all three went back to the water and
kept drinking for nearly an hour.

We had made an average travelling of twenty-eight miles a day from
Wynbring, until this eighth day, when we came to the water in
twenty-four miles, thus making it 220 miles in all. I could not
sufficiently admire and praise the wonderful powers of these
extraordinary, and to me entirely new animals. During the time we had
been travelling the weather had been very hot and oppressive, the
thermometer usually rising to 104 degrees in the shade when we rested
for an hour in the middle of the day, but that was not the hottest
time, from 2.40 to 3 p.m. being the culminating period. The country we
had traversed was a most frightful desert, yet day after day our noble
camels kept moving slowly but surely on, with undiminished powers,
having carried water for their unfortunate companions the horses, and
seeing them drop one by one exhausted and dying of thirst; still they
marched contentedly on, carrying us by turns, and all the remaining
gear of the dead horses, and finally brought us to water at last. We
had yet over eighty miles to travel to reach the Finniss, and had we
not found water I am sure the three human beings of the party could
never have got there. The walking in turns over this dreadful region
made us suffer all the more, and it was dangerous at any time to allow
old Jimmy to put his baking lips to a water-bag, for he could have
drank a couple of gallons at any time with the greatest ease. For some
miles before we found the water the country had become of much better
quality, the sandhills being lower and well grassed, with clay flats
between. We also passed a number with pine-trees growing on them.
Rains had evidently visited this region, as before I found the water I
noticed that many of the deeper clay channels were only recently dry;
when I say deeper, I mean from one to two feet, the usual depth of a
clay-pan channel being about as many inches. The grass and herbage
round the channel where I found the water were beautifully green.

Our course from the last hill had been about north 75 degrees east;
the weather, which had been exceedingly oppressive for so many weeks,
now culminated in a thunderstorm of dust, or rather sand and wind,
while dark nimbus clouds completely eclipsed the sun, and reduced the
temperature to an agreeable and bearable state. No rain fell, but from
this change the heats of summer departed, though the change did not
occur until after we had found the water; now all our good things came
together, namely, an escape from death by thirst, a watered and better
travelling country, and cooler weather. Here we very naturally took a
day to recruit. Old Jimmy was always very anxious to know how the
compass was working, as I had always told him the compass would bring
us to water, that it knew every country and every water, and as it did
bring us to water, he thought what I said about it must be true. I
also told him it would find some more water for us to-morrow. We were
always great friends, but now I was so advanced in his favour that he
promised to give me his daughter Mary for a wife when I took him back
to Fowler's Bay. Mary was a very pretty little girl. But "I to wed
with Coromantees? Thoughts like these would drive me mad. And yet I
hold some (young) barbarians higher than the Christian cad." After our
day's rest we again proceeded on our journey, with all our water
vessels replenished, and of course now found several other places on
our route where rain-water was lying, and it seemed like being
translated to a brighter sphere, to be able to indulge in as much
water-drinking as we pleased.


At one place where we encamped there was a cane grass flat, over a
mile long, fifty to a hundred yards wide, and having about four feet
of water in it, which was covered with water-fowl; amongst these a
number of black swans were gracefully disporting themselves. Peter
Nicholls made frantic efforts to shoot a swan and some ducks, but he
only brought one wretchedly small teal into the camp. We continued on
our former course until we touched upon and rounded the north-western
extremity of Lake Torrens. I then changed my course for the Hermit
Hill, at the foot of which the Finniss Springs and Sir Thomas Elder's
cattle station lies. Our course was now nearly north. On the evening
of the third day after leaving the water that had saved us, we fell in
with two black fellows and their lubras or wives, shepherding two
flocks of Mr. Angas's sheep belonging to his Stuart's Creek station.
As they were at a water, we encamped with them. Their lubras were
young and pretty; the men were very hospitable to us, and gave us some
mutton, for which we gave them tobacco and matches; for their kindness
I gave the pretty lubras some tea and sugar. Our old Jimmy went up to
them and shook hands, and they became great friends. These blacks
could not comprehend where we could possibly have come from, Fowler's
Bay being an unknown quantity to them. We had still a good day's stage
before us to reach the Finniss, but at dusk we arrived, and were very
kindly received and entertained by Mr. Coulthard, who was in charge.
His father had been an unfortunate explorer, who lost his life by
thirst, upon the western shores of the Lake Torrens I have mentioned,
his tin pannikin or pint pot was afterwards found with his name and
the date of the last day he lived, scratched upon it. Many an
unrecorded grave, many a high and noble mind, many a gallant victim to
temerity and thirst, to murder by relentless native tribes, or sad
mischance, is hidden in the wilds of Australia, and not only in the
wilds, but in places also less remote, where the whistle of the
shepherd and the bark of his dog, the crack of the stockman's whip, or
the gay or grumbling voice of the teamster may now be heard, some
unfortunate wanderer may have died. As the poet says:--

"Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid,
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed,
Or waked to ecstacy the living lyre."

If it is with a thought of pity, if it is with a sigh of lament, that
we ponder over the fate of the lost, over the deaths in the long
catalogue of the victims to the Australian bush, from Cunningham (lost
with Mitchell) and Leichhardt, Kennedy and Gilbert, Burke, Wills,
Gray, Poole, Curlewis and Conn, down to Coulthard, Panter, and Gibson,
it must be remembered that they died in a noble cause, and they sleep
in honourable graves. Nor must it be forgotten that they who return
from confronting the dangers by which these others fell, have suffered
enough to make them often wish that they, too, could escape through
the grave from the horrors surrounding them. I have often been in such
predicaments that I have longed for death, but having as yet returned
alive, from deserts and their thirst, from hostile native tribes and
deadly spears, and feeling still "the wild pulsation which in
manhood's dawn I knew, when my days were all before me, and my years
were twenty-two,"--as long as there are new regions to explore, the
burning charm of seeking something new, will still possess me; and I
am also actuated to aspire and endeavour if I cannot make my life
sublime, at least to leave behind me some "everlasting footprints on
the sands of time."

At the Finniss Springs I met young Alec Ross, the son of another
explorer, who was going to join my party for the new expedition to
Perth. My destination was now Beltana, 140 miles from hence. I got a
couple of horses for Nicholls and myself from Mr. Coulthard, Jimmy
being stuck up on the top of the old riding cow camel, who could
travel splendidly on a road. When I arrived at Beltana I had travelled
700 miles from Fowler's Bay.



Fourth expedition.
The members.
Port Augusta.
Coogee Mahomet.
Mr. Roberts and Tommy.
Westward ho!.
The equipment.
Dinner and a sheep.
The country.
A cattle ranch.
Stony plateau.
The Elizabeth.
Mr. Moseley.
Salt lakes.
Curdling tea.
An indented hill.
A black boy's argument.
Pale-green-foliaged tree.
A lost officer.
Camels poisoned.
Mount Finke in the winter.
A new route.
A good Mussulman.
Depart from Wynbring.
New places.
Antediluvian cisterns.
Still westwards.
Lake Bring.
Rain and a bath.
A line cut in the scrubs.
High sandhills.
Return to Youldeh.
Waking dreams.
In depot.
Fowler's Bay once more.
The officers explore to the north.
Jimmy and Tommy.
Jimmy's bereavement.
At the bay.
Richard Dorey.
Return to Youldeh.
Tommy's father.
The officer's report Northwards.

Sir Thomas Elder was desirous that the new expedition for Perth, for
which camels were to be the only animals taken, should start from
Beltana by the 1st of May. I was detained a few days beyond that time,
but was enabled to leave on Thursday, May the 6th. The members of the
party were six in number, namely myself, Mr. William Henry Tietkens,
who had been with me as second on my last expedition with horses--he
had been secured from Melbourne by Sir Thomas Elder, and was again
going as second; Mr. Jess Young, a young friend of Sir Thomas's lately
arrived from England; Alexander Ross, mentioned previously; Peter
Nicholls, who had just come with me from Fowler's Bay, and who now
came as cook; and Saleh, the Afghan camel-driver as they like to be
called. I also took for a short distance, until Alec Ross overtook me,
another Afghan called Coogee Mahomet, and the old guide Jimmy, who was
to return to the bosom of his family so soon as we arrived anywhere
sufficiently near the neighbourhood of his country. Poor old Jimmy had
been ill at Beltana, and suffered greatly from colds and influenza.
The Beltana blacks did not treat him so well as he expected, and some
of them threatened to kill him for poking his nose into their country,
consequently he did not like the place at all, and was mighty glad to
be taken away. Thus, as I have said, on the 6th of May, 1875, the
caravan departed from Beltana, but we did not immediately leave
civilisation or the settled districts, as I had to travel 150 miles
down the country nearly south, to Port Augusta at the head of
Spencer's Gulf, where I intended to take in my stores, and loading for
the inland voyage, as most of my equipment was forwarded by Sir Thomas
from Adelaide to that port.

Nothing very particular occurred on the road down, except some
continual squabbles between myself, and Saleh and Coogee, on account
of the extraordinary and absurd manner in which these two men wanted
to load and work the camels. In the first place, we had several young
camels or colts in the mob, some of these were bulls and others
bullocks. The Afghans have a way when travelling of bringing the
camels up to the camp and making them lie down by their loads all
night, whether they have had time to fill themselves or not. This
system was so revolting to my notions of fair play that I determined
to alter it at once.

Another thing that annoyed me was their absurd and stupid custom of
hobbling, and unhobbling, while the camels were lying down. This may
be necessary for the first few days after the creatures are handled,
but if they are never accustomed to have their legs and feet touched
while they are standing up, of course they may paw, or strike and kick
like a young horse; and if a camel is a striker, he is rather an
awkward kind of a brute, but that is only the case with one in a
thousand. The Afghans not only persist in hobbling and unhobbling
while the camels are lying down, but never think of taking the hobbles
entirely off at all, as they unfasten the hobble from one leg and put
both on the other, so that the poor brutes always have to carry them
on one leg when they are travelling. I quickly put a stop to this, but
Coogee Mahomet exclaimed, "Oh, master! you mustn't take off a hobble,
camel he keek, he keek, you mustn't." To which I replied, "Let him
kick, and I hope he will kick you to death first, so that there will
be one Afghan less in the world, but every hobble shall come off every
camel every day." This Coogee was a most amusing though lazy, indolent
beggar. He never ceased to brag of what he could make camels do; he
wished to ingratiate himself with me in the hope I would take him with
me, but I had already determined to have only one of his countrymen.
He said if he came with me he could make the camels go 200, 300, 400
or 500 miles with heavy loads without water, by just talking to them
in his language. He used to say, "You know, master, camel he know me,
and my countrymen; camel he un'stand my language, he no like
Englishman, Englishman, he no un'stand riding camel, he no un'stand
loading camel, only my countryman he un'stand camel," etc., etc.; but
with all his bragging about the camels going so long without water,
when we had been only four days gone from Beltana, Saleh and Coogee
had held a council and decided that I must be remonstrated with, in
consequence of my utter ignorance, stupidity, and reckless treatment
of the camels. Accordingly on the fourth morning, the weather having
been delightfully cool and the camels not requiring any water, Coogee
came to me and said, "Master, when you water camel?" "What?" I said
with unfeigned astonishment, "Water the camels? I never heard of such
a thing, they will get no water until they reach Port Augusta." This
completely upset Mr. Coogee, and he replied, "What! no water till Port
Gusta? camel he can't go, camel he always get water three, four time
from Beltana to Port Gusta." "Well," I said, "Coogee, they will get
none now with me till they walk to Port Augusta for it." Then Coogee
said, "Ah! Mr. Gile, you very smart master, you very clever man, only
you don't know camel, you'll see you'll kill all Sir Thomas Elder
camel; you'll no get Perth, you and all you party, and all you camel
die; you'll see, you'll see; you no give poor camel water, camel he
die, then where you be?" I was rather annoyed and said, "You stupid
ass, it was only yesterday you said you could take camels, 300, 400,
500 miles without water, with heavy loads, and now they have no loads
and we have only come about seventy miles, you say they will die if I
don't give them water. How is it that all your countrymen continually
brag of what camels can do, and yet, when they have been only three
days without water, you begin to cry out that they want it?"

To this he only condescended to reply, "Ah! ah! you very clever,
you'll see." Of course the camels went to the port just as well
without water as with it. Alec Ross overtook us on the road, and
brought a special little riding-camel (Reechy) for me. I got rid of
Mr. Coogee before we arrived at the port. We remained a little over a
week, as all the loads had to be arranged and all the camels'
pack-saddles required re-arranging. Saleh and another of his
countryman who happened to be there, worked hard at this, while the
rest of the party arranged the loads.

While at Port Augusta, Mr. Charles Roberts, who had been with me, and
with whom I left all the horses at Youldeh, arrived, by the usual road
and brought me a young black boy, Master Tommy Oldham, with whom I had
travelled to Eucla from Fowler's Bay with the three horses that had
died on my journey to Beltana. He was very sorry to hear of the loss
of Chester and Formby, the latter having been his riding-horse. Old
Jimmy was immensely delighted to meet one of his own people in a
strange place. Tommy was a great acquisition to the party, he was a
very nice little chap, and soon became a general favourite.

Everything being at length ready, the equipment of the expedition was
most excellent and capable. Sir Thomas had sent me from Adelaide
several large pairs of leather bags, one to be slung on each side of a
camel; all our minor, breakable, and perishable articles were thus
secure from wet or damp. In several of these large bags I had wooden
boxes at the bottom, so that all books, papers, instruments, glass,
etc., were safe. At starting the loads were rather heavy, the
lightest-weighted camels carrying two bags of flour, cased in raw-hide
covers, the two bags weighing about 450 pounds, and a large tarpaulin
about 60 pounds on top, or a couple of empty casks or other gear,
which did not require to be placed inside the leather bags. The way
the camels' loads are placed by the Afghan camel-men is different
from, and at first surprising to persons accustomed to, pack-horse
loads. For instance, the two bags of flour are carried as
perpendicularly as possible. As a general rule, it struck me the way
they arranged the loads was absurd, as the whole weight comes down on
the unfortunate animal's loins; they use neither bags nor trunks, but
tie up almost every article with pieces of rope.

My Afghan, Saleh, was horrified at the fearful innovations I made upon
his method. I furnished the leather bags with broad straps to sustain
them, having large rings and buckles to pass them through and fasten
in the ordinary way of buckle and strap; this had the effect of making
the loads in the bags and trunks lie as horizontally as possible along
the sides of the pads of the pack-saddles. Saleh still wanted to
encumber them with ropes, so that they could not be opened without
untying about a thousand knots. I would not permit such a violation of
my ideas, and told him the loads should be carried as they stood upon
the ground; his argument always was, a la Coogee Mahomet, "Camel he
can't carry them that way," to which I invariably replied, "Camel he
must and camel he shall," and the consequence was that camel he did.

When we left Port Augusta, I had fifteen pack- or baggage-camels and
seven riding ones. The two blacks, Jimmy and Tommy, rode on one
animal, while the others had a riding-camel each. The weight of the
loads of the baggage-camels on leaving, averaged 550 pounds all round.
All the equipment and loads being in a proper state, and all the men
and camels belonging to the new expedition for Perth being ready, we
left Port Augusta on the 23rd of May, 1875, but only travelled about
six miles, nearly west-north-west, to a place called Bowman's or the
Chinaman's Dam, where there was plenty of surface water, and good
bushes for the camels; here we encamped for the night. A few ducks
which incautiously floated too near fell victims to our sportsmen. The
following day we passed Mr. Bowman's station, had some dinner with
him, and got a fat sheep from one of his paddocks. On the 25th we
encamped close to a station in the neighbourhood of Euro Bluff, a hill
that exists near the south-western extremity of Lake Torrens; we now
travelled about north-north-west up Lake Torrens, upon the opposite or
western side to that on which we had lately travelled down, to Port
Augusta, as I wished to reach a watercourse (the Elizabeth), where I
heard there was water. On the 28th of May we encamped on the banks of
Pernatty Creek, where we obtained a few wild ducks; the country here
was very good, being open salt-bush country. The next morning we met
and passed a Government Survey party, under the command of Mr. Brooks,
who was engaged in a very extensive trigonometrical survey. In an hour
or two after, we passed Mr. Bowman's Pernatty cattle-station; there
was no one at home but a dog, and the appearance of the camels seemed
to strike him dumb. There were some nice little sheets of water in the
creek-bed, but scarcely large enough to be permanent. The country was
now a sort of stony plateau, having low, flat-topped, tent-shaped
table-lands occurring at intervals all over it; it was quite open, and
no timber existed except upon the banks of the watercourses.

On the 30th of May we reached the Elizabeth; there was an old hut or
two, but no people were now living there. The water was at a very low
ebb. We got a few ducks the first day we arrived. As some work had to
be done to the water-casks to enable us to carry them better, we
remained here until the 2nd of June. The Elizabeth comes from the
table-lands near the shores of Lake Torrens to the north-eastward and
falls into the northern end of Pernatty Lagoon. Here we were almost as
far north as when at Beltana, our latitude being 31 degrees 10' 30".
The weather was now, and had been for several weeks--indeed ever since
the thunderstorm which occurred the day we came upon the clay-channel
water--very agreeable; the nights cold but dewless. When at Port
Augusta, I heard that a Mr. Moseley was out somewhere to the west of
the Elizabeth, well-sinking, on a piece of country he had lately taken
up, and that he was camped at or near some rain-water. I was anxious
to find out where he was; on the 31st of May I sent Alec Ross on the
only track that went west, to find if any water existed at a place I
had heard of about twenty-five miles to the west, and towards which
the only road from here led. Alec had not been gone long, when he
returned with Mr. Moseley, who happened to be coming to the Elizabeth
en route for Port Augusta. He camped with us that night. He informed
me his men obtained water at some clay-pans, called Coondambo, near
the edge of Lake Gairdner, another large salt depression similar to
Lake Torrens, and that by following his horses' tracks they would
lead, first to a well where he had just succeeded in obtaining water
at a depth of eighty-five feet, and thence, in seven miles farther, to
the Coondambo clay-pans. I was very glad to get this information, as
even from Coondambo the only water to the west beyond it, that I knew
of, was Wynbring, at a distance of 160 or 170 miles.

Leaving the Elizabeth on June the 2nd, we went sixteen miles nearly
west, to a small clay water-hole, where we encamped. On the 3rd we
travelled twenty-five miles nearly west, passing a deserted
sheep-station belonging to Mr. Litchfield about the middle of the day;
the country was very poor, being open, bare, stony ground, with
occasional low, flat-topped table-lands, covered very sparsely with
salsolaceous vegetation. We next arrived at the north-east corner of
Lake Hart, and proceeded nearly west along its northern shore; thence
by the southern shores of Lakes Hanson and Younghusband, all salt
lakes, where one of the party must have been taken ill, for he
suddenly broke out into a doggerel rhyme, remarking that:--

"We went by Lake Hart, which is laid on the chart,
And by the Lake Younghusband too;
We next got a glance on, the little Lake Hanson,
And wished..."

Goodness only knows what he wished, but the others conveyed to him
their wish that he should discontinue such an infliction on them.

On June the 6th we arrived at the place where Mr. Moseley had just
finished his well; but his men had deserted the spot and gone
somewhere else, to put down another shaft to the north-eastwards. The
well was between eighty and ninety feet deep, the water whitish but
good; here we encamped on a bushy sort of flat. The next morning,
following some horse tracks about south-west, they took us to the
Coondambo clay-pans; the water was yellow and very thick, but there
was plenty of it for all our purposes, though I imagined it would not
last Mr. Moseley and his men very long. Two or three of his horses
were running at this water; here were several large shallow,
cane-grass clay flats which are also occasionally filled with
rain-water, they and Coondambo being situated close to the northern
shore of Lake Gairdner.

We left Coondambo on the 8th; on the 9th rain pretended to fall, and
we were kept in camp during the day, as a slight spitting fell, but
was totally useless. On the 11th we encamped again near Lake
Gairdner's shore; this was the last we should see of it. Our latitude
here was 31 degrees 5', and longitude 135 degrees 30' 10". We had seen
no water since leaving Coondambo, from whence we carried a quantity of
the thick yellow fluid, which curdled disagreeably when made into tea,
the sugar having the chemical property of precipitating the sediment.
We were again in a scrubby region, and had been since leaving
Coondambo. Our course was now nearly north-north-west for sixteen or
seventeen miles, where we again camped in scrubs. The following day we
got to a low rocky hill, or rather several hills, enveloped in the
scrub; there were numerous small indentations upon the face of the
rocks, and we got some water for the camels, though they had to climb
all over the rocks to get it, as there was seldom more than three or
four gallons in any indent. We got some pure water for ourselves, and
were enabled to dispense with the yellow clayey fluid we had carried.
From these hills we travelled nearly west-north-west until, on the
15th, we fell in with my former tracks in April, when travelling from
Wynbring. Old Jimmy was quite pleased to find himself again in country
which he knew something about. We could again see the summit of Mount
Finke. The only water I knew of in this wretched country being at
Wynbring, I determined to follow my old route. On the 16th we passed a
place where we had formerly seen a small portion of bare rock, and
now, in consequence of the late sprinkling showers on the 9th and
10th, there were a few thimblefuls of water on it. This set Jimmy into
a state of excitement; he gesticulated and talked to Tommy in their
language at a great rate, and Tommy said, "Ah, if you found water
here, when you come before, Chester and Formby wouldn't die." "Well,"
I said, "Tommy, I don't see much water here to keep anything alive,
even if it had been here then." He only sapiently shook his head and
said, "But if you got plenty water then that's all right." I found
Tommy's arguments were exactly similar to those of all other black
boys I have known, exceedingly comical, but all to their own way of

Soon after this, I was riding in advance along the old track, when old
Jimmy came running up behind my camel in a most excited state, and
said, "Hi, master, me find 'im, big one watta, plenty watta, mucka
(not) pickaninny (little); this way, watta go this way," pointing to a
place on our left. I waited until the caravan appeared through the
scrub, then old Jimmy led us to the spot he had found. There was a
small area of bare rock, but it was too flat to hold any quantity of
water, though some of the fluid was shining on it; there was only
enough for two or three camels, but I decided to camp there
nevertheless. What water there was, some of the camels licked up in no
time, and went off to feed. They seemed particularly partial to a low
pale-green-foliaged tree with fringelike leaves, something like fennel
or asparagus. I have often gathered specimens of this in former
journeys, generally in the most desert places. The botanical name of
this tree is Gyrostemon ramulosus. After hobbling out the camels, and
sitting down to dinner, we became aware of the absence of Mr. Jess
Young, and I was rather anxious as to what had become of him, as a new
arrival from England adrift in these scrubs would be very liable to
lose himself. However, I had not much fear for Mr. Young, as, having
been a sailor, and carrying a compass, he might be able to recover us.
Immediately after our meal I was going after him, but before it was
finished he came, without his camel, and said he could not get her on,
so had tied her up to a tree and walked back, he having gone a long
way on my old tracks. I sent Tommy and another riding-camel with him,
and in a couple of hours they returned with Mr. Young's animal.

The following morning, the 17th, much to my distress, one of our young
bull camels was found to be poisoned, and could not move. We made him
sick with hot butter and gave him a strong clyster. Both operations
produced the same substance, namely, a quantity of the chewed and
digested Gyrostemon; indeed, the animal apparently had nothing else in
his inside. He was a trifle better by night, but the following
morning, my best bull, Mustara, that had brought me through this
region before, was poisoned, and couldn't move. I was now very sorry I
had camped at this horrid place. We dosed Mustara with butter as an
emetic, and he also threw up nothing but the chewed Gyrostemon; the
clyster produced the same. It was evident that this plant has a very
poisonous effect on the camels, and I was afraid some of them would
die. I was compelled to remain here another day. The first camel
poisoned had got a little better, and I hoped the others would escape;
but as they all seemed to relish the poisonous plant so much until
they felt the effects, and as there were great quantities of it
growing on the sandhills, I was in great anxiety during the whole day.
On the 19th I was glad to find no fresh cases, though the two camels
that had suffered were very weak and afflicted with spasmodic
staggerings. We got them away, though they were scarcely able to carry
their loads, which we lightened as much as possible; anything was
better than remaining here, as others might get affected.

On this day's march we passed the spot where I had put the horse's
packsaddle in the sandal-wood-tree, and where my first horse had given
in. The saddle was now of no use, except that the two pads, being
stuffed with horsehair, made cushions for seats of camels'
riding-saddles; these we took, but left the frame in the tree again.
That night we camped about five miles from Mount Finke, and I was glad
to find that the two poisoned bulls had greatly recovered.

The following day, Mr. Young and I ascended Mount Finke, and put up a
small pile of stones upon its highest point. The weather, now cool and
agreeable, was so different from that which I had previously
experienced upon this dreadful mount. Upon that visit the whole region
was in an intense glow of heat, but now the summer heats were past;
the desolate region around was enjoying for a few weeks only, a slight
respite from the usual fiery temperature of the climate of this part
of the world; but even now the nature of the country was so terrible
and severe, the sandhills so high, and the scrub so thick, that all
the new members of the party expressed their astonishment at our ever
having got out of it alive. This mountain, as before stated, is
forty-five miles from Wynbring. On the 22nd of June, just as we got in
sight of the rock, some heavy showers of rain descended; it came down
so fast that the camels could drink the water right at their feet, and
they all got huddled up together in a mob, breaking their nose-ropes,
some laying down to enable them to drink easier, as loaded camels,
having a breast-rope from the saddles, cannot put their heads to the
ground without hurting, and perhaps cutting, themselves. The rain
ceased for a bit, and we made off to my old camp, and got everything
under canvas just as another heavy shower came down. Of course the
rock-hole was full to overflowing, and water was lying about in all
directions. During the 23rd several smart showers fell, and we were
confined to our canvas habitations for nearly the whole day.

As this spot was so excellent for all kinds of animals, I gave my
friends a couple of days' rest, in the first place because they had
had such poor feeding places for several nights before our arrival
here, and I also wished, if possible, to meet again with the Wynbring
natives, and endeavour to find out from them whether any other waters
existed in this country. Old Jimmy, when he discovered, through Tommy
Oldham, what I wanted the natives for, seemed surprised and annoyed
that I should attempt to get information from them while he was with
me in his own territories. He said he would take me to several waters
between here and Youldeh, by a more northerly route than he had
previously shown; he said that water existed at several places which
he enumerated on his fingers; their names were Taloreh, Edoldeh,
Cudyeh, Yanderby, Mobing, Bring, Poothraba, Pondoothy, and Youldeh. I
was very glad to hear of all these places, and hoped we should find
they were situated in a more hospitable country than that through
which we had formerly come. On the 25th Mr. Young shot an emu, and we
had fried steaks, which we all relished. Saleh being a good Mussulman,
was only just (if) in time to run up and cut the bird's throat before
it died, otherwise his religious scruples would have prevented him
from eating any of it. All the meat he did eat, which was smoked beef,
had been killed in the orthodox Mohammedan style, either by himself or
one of his co-religionists at Beltana. It was cured and carried on
purpose. None of the natives I had formerly seen, or any others, made
their appearance, and the party were disappointed by not seeing the
charming young Polly, my description of whom had greatly raised their


On the 26th of June we departed from the pretty little oasis of
Wynbring, leaving its isolated and water-giving rock, in the silence
and solitude of its enveloping scrubs, abandoning it once again, to
the occupation of primeval man, a fertile little gem in a desolate
waste, where the footsteps of the white man had never been seen until
I came, where the wild emu, and the wilder black man, continually
return to its life-sustaining rock, where the aboriginal inhabitants
will again and again indulge in the wild revelries of the midnight
corroborree dance, and where, in an existence totally distinct from
ours of civilisation, men and women live and love, and eat and drink,
and sleep and die. But the passions are the same in all phases of the
life of the human family, the two great master motives, of love and
hunger, being the mainspring of all the actions of mankind.

Wynbring was now behind us, and Jimmy once more our guide,
philosopher, and friend. He seemed much gratified at again becoming an
important member of the expedition, and he and Tommy, both upon the
same riding-camel, led the way for us, through the scrubs, in the
direction of about west-north-west. In seven or eight miles we came to
a little opening in the scrub, where Jimmy showed us some bare flat
rocks, wherein was a nearly circular hole brimful of water. It was,
however, nearly full also of the debris of ages, as a stick could be
poked into mud or dirt for several feet below the water, and it was
impossible to say what depth it really was; but at the best it could
not contain more than 200 or 300 gallons. This was Taloreh. Proceeding
towards the next watering-place, which old Jimmy said was close up, in
a rather more northerly direction, we found it was getting late, as we
had not left Wynbring until after midday; we therefore had to encamp
in the scrubs, having come about fifteen miles. It is next to
impossible to make an old fool of a black fellow understand the value
of the economy of time. I wanted to come on to Edoldeh, and so did old
Jimmy; but he made out that Edoldeh was close to Taloreh, and every
mile we went it was still close up, until it got so late I ordered the
party to camp, where there was little or nothing that the camels could
eat. Of course it was useless to try and make Jimmy understand that,
having thousands of miles to travel with the camels, it was a great
object to me to endeavour to get them bushes or other food that they
could eat, so as to keep them in condition to stand the long journey
that was before them. Camels, although exceedingly ravenous animals,
will only eat what they like, and if they can't get that, will lie
down all night and starve, if they are too short-hobbled to allow them
to wander, otherwise they will ramble for miles. It was therefore
annoying the next morning to find plenty of good bushes at Edoldeh,
two miles and a half from our wretched camp, and whither we might have
come so easily the night before. To-day, however, I determined to keep
on until we actually did reach the next oasis; this Jimmy said was
Cudyeh, and was of course still close up. We travelled two and a half
miles to Edoldeh, continued eighteen miles beyond it, and reached
Cudyeh early in the afternoon. This place was like most of the little
oases in the desert; it was a very good place for a camp, one singular
feature about it being that it consisted of a flat bare rock of some
area, upon which were several circular and elliptical holes in various
places. The rock lay in the lowest part of the open hollow, and
whenever rain fell in the neighbourhood, the water all ran down to it.
In consequence of the recent rains, the whole area of rock was two
feet under water, and the extraordinary holes or wells that existed
there looked like antediluvian cisterns. Getting a long stick, and
wading through the water to the mouths of these cisterns, we found
that, like most other reservoirs in a neglected native state, they
were almost full of soil and debris, and the deepest had only about
three feet of water below the surface of the rock. Some of these holes
might be very deep, or they might be found to be permanent wells if
cleaned out.

Next day we passed another little spot called Yanderby, with rock
water, at ten miles; thence in three more we came to Mobing, a much
better place than any of the others: indeed I thought it superior to
Wynbring. It lies about north 62 degrees west from Wynbring and is
fifty miles from it; the latitude of Mobing is 30 degrees 10' 30". At
this place there was a large, bare, rounded rock, very similar to
Wynbring, except that no rock-holes to hold any surface water existed;
what was obtainable being in large native wells sunk at the foot of
the rock, and brimful of water. I believe a good supply might be
obtained here. There were plenty of good bushes in the neighbourhood
for the camels, and we had an excellent camp at Mobing. As usual, this
oasis consisted merely of an open space, lightly timbered with the
mulga acacia amongst the sandhills and the scrubs.

The day after, we were led by old Jimmy to a small salt lake-bed
called Bring, which was dry; it lay about south-west from Mobing.
Round at the southern shore of this lake Jimmy showed us a small
rock-hole, with a few dozen gallons of water in it. In consequence of
Mr. Young not being well, we encamped, the distance from Mobing being
nine miles. This also was a rather pretty camp, and excellent for the
camels. Towards evening some light showers of rain fell, and we had to
erect our tarpaulins and tents, which we only do in times of rain.
More showers fell the next day, and we did not shift our quarters. A
very shallow sheet of water now appeared upon the surface of the lake
bed, but it was quite salt. We made some little dams with clay, where
the water ran into the lake, and saved enough water to indulge in a
sort of bath with the aid of buckets and waterproof sheeting. This was
the last day of June. Unfortunately, though Chairman of the Company, I
was unable to declare a dividend for the half-year.

The 1st of July broke with a fine and beautiful morning, and we left
Lake Bring none the worse for our compulsory delay. I was anxious to
reach Youldeh so soon as possible, as I had a great deal of work to do
when I arrived there. To-day we travelled nearly west seventeen or
eighteen miles, and encamped without an oasis. On the 2nd we passed
two rocky hills, named respectively Pondoothy and Poothraba, Pondoothy
was an indented rock-crowned hill in the scrubs. Standing on its
summit I descried an extraordinary line cut through the scrubs, which
ran east by north, and was probably intended by the natives for a true
east line. The scrub timber was all cut away, and it looked like a
survey line. Upon asking old Jimmy what it was done for, and what it
meant, he gave the usual reply, that Cockata black fellow make 'em. It
was somewhat similar to the path I had seen cleared at Pylebung in
March last, and no doubt it is used for a similar purpose. Leaving
this hill and passing Poothraba, which is in sight of it, we continued
our nearly west course, and camped once more in the scrubs. The
country was very difficult for the loaded camels, it rose into such
high ridges or hills of sand that we could only traverse it at a
snail's pace. It was of course still covered with scrubs, which
consisted here, as all over this region, mostly of the Eucalyptus
dumosa, or mallee-trees, of a very stunted habit; occasionally some
patches of black oaks as we call them, properly casuarinas, with
clumps of mulga in the hollows, here and there a stunted cypress pine,
callitris, some prickly hakea bushes, and an occasional so called
native poplar, Codonocarpus cotinifolius, a brother or sister tree to
the poisonous Gyrostemon. The native poplar is a favourite and
harmless food for camels, and as it is of the same family as the
Gyrostemon, my friend Baron von Mueller argues that I must be mistaken
in the poison plant which affected the camels. He thinks it must be a
plant of the poisonous family of the Euphorbiaceae, and which
certainly grows in these regions, and which I have collected specimens
of, but I cannot detect it.

We were now nearly in the latitude of Youldeh, and had only to push
west to reach it; but the cow camel that Jimmy and Tommy rode, being
very near calving, had not travelled well for some days, and gave a
good deal of trouble to find her of a morning. I wished to get her to
Youldeh before she calved, as I intended to form a depot there for a
few weeks, during which time I hoped the calf would become strong
enough to travel. On the morning of the 5th, only about half the mob
were brought up to the camp, and, as Mr. Tietkens' and my riding
camels were amongst them, we rode off to Youldeh, seven or eight miles
away, telling the others to come on as soon as they could. Mr. Young,
Saleh, and Tommy were away after the absent animals. On arriving I
found Youldeh much the same as when I left it, only now the weather
was cool, and the red sandhills, that had formerly almost burnt the
feet of men and animals, were slightly encrusted with a light
glittering mantle of hoar-frost in the shaded places, under the big
leguminous bushes, for that morning Herr Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit had
fallen to 28 degrees. My old slabbed well had got filled up with sand,
and it was evident that many natives had visited the place since I
left on the 24th of March, 103 days ago. We managed to water our
camels, as they lay down on the top of the well, and stretched their
long necks down into it. We then quietly waited till long past midday
for the caravan to come up. We had nothing to do, and nothing to eat;
we could not dig out the well, for we had no shovel. At last Mr.
Tietkens got alarmed at the non-arrival of the party, and he went back
to the camp, taking my riding-camel with him, as she would not remain
quiet by herself. I remained there mighty hungry, and made some black
smoke to endeavour to attract any natives that might be in the
neighbourhood. I have before remarked that the natives can make
different coloured smokes, of different form, and make them ascend in
different ways, each having a separate meaning: hurried alarm, and
signal fires are made to throw up black and white smokes. No signals
were returned, and I sat upon a sandhill, like Patience on a monument,
and thought of the line, "That sitting alone with my conscience, is
judgment sufficient for me." I could not perceive any dust or sand of
the approaching caravan; darkness began to creep over this solitary
place and its more solitary occupant. I thought I had better sleep,
though I had no bedding, to pass the time away till morning. I coiled
myself up under a bush and fell into one of those extraordinary waking
dreams which occasionally descend upon imaginative mortals, when we
know that we are alive, and yet we think we are dead; when a confused
jumble of ideas sets the mind "peering back into the vistas of the
memories of yore," and yet also foreshadowing the images of future
things upon the quivering curtains of the mental eye. At such a time
the imagination can revel only in the marvellous, the mysterious, and
the mythical. The forms of those we love are idealised and
spiritualised into angelic shapes. The faces of those we have
forgotten long, or else perchance have lost, once more return,
seraphic from the realms of light. The lovely forms and winning graces
of children gone, the witching eyes and alluring smiles of women we
have loved, the beautiful countenances of beloved and admired youth,
once more we seem to see; the youthful hands we have clasped so often
in love and friendship in our own, once more we seem to press,
unchanged by time, unchanged by fate, beckoning to us lovingly to
follow them, still trying with loving caress and youthful smiles to
lead us to their shadowy world beyond. O youth, beautiful and undying,
the sage's dream, the poet's song, all that is loving and lovely, is
centred still in thee! O lovely youth, with thine arrowy form, and
slender hands, thy pearly teeth, and saintly smile, thy pleading eyes
and radiant hair; all, all must worship thee. And if in waking hours
and daily toil we cannot always greet thee, yet in our dreams you are
our own. As the poet says:--

"In dreams you come as things of light and lightness!
We hear your voice in still small accents tell,
Of realms of bliss and never-fading brightness,
Where those who loved on earth together dwell."

Then, while lying asleep, engrossed by these mysterious influences and
impressions, I thought I heard celestial sounds upon mine ear;
vibrating music's rapturous strain, as though an heavenly choir were
near, dispensing melody and pain. As though some angels swept the
strings, of harps ethereal o'er me hung, and fann'd me, as with
seraph's wings, while thus the voices sweetly sung: "Be bold of heart,
be strong of will, for unto thee by God is given, to roam the desert
paths of earth, and thence explore the fields of heaven. Be bold of
heart, be strong of will, and naught on earth shall lay thee low."
When suddenly I awoke, and found that the party with all the camels
had arrived, my fire was relit, and the whole place lately so silent
was now in a bustle. I got up, and looked about me in astonishment, as
I could not at first remember where I was. But I soon discovered that
the musical sounds I had heard were the tintinabulations of my
camel-bells, tinkling in the evening air, as they came closer and
closer over the sandhills to the place where I lay dreaming, and my
senses returned at length to their ordinary groove.

We were safely landed at the Youldeh depot once more; and upon the
whole I may say we had had an agreeable journey from Port Augusta.
Jimmy and Tommy's cow calved soon after arrival. I was glad to find
she had delayed; now the calf will be allowed to live, as she will be
here for some little time. On the following morning I christened the
calf Youldeh, after her birthplace; she was not much bigger than a
cat. On the 6th, 7th, and 8th, we all remained in depot, doing various
kinds of work, re-digging and re-slabbing the well, making two large
canvas troughs for the camels to drink out of, making some covers and
alterations to some water-beds I had for carrying water, and many
other things. I had some camels to deliver at Fowler's Bay, and some
private business, necessary to be done before a magistrate, which
compelled me personally to return thither; otherwise I should have
gone away to the north to endeavour to discover another depot in that
direction. But now I committed this piece of work to my two officers,
Messrs. Tietkens and Young, while Alec Ross and I went south to the
Bay. Both parties started from Youldeh on the 9th. I took old Jimmy
with me to return him, with thanks, to his family. Tietkens and Young
took Tommy with them, as that young gentleman had no desire whatever
to return or to leave me. Between ourselves, when I first got him in
February, I had caused him to commit some very serious breaches of
aboriginal law, for he was then on probation and not allowed to come
near women or the blacks' camp. He was also compelled to wear a great
chignon, which made him look more like a girl than a boy. This I cut
off and threw away, much to the horror of the elders of his tribe,
who, if they could catch, would inflict condign punishment upon him.
When he and old Jimmy met at Port Augusta, and Jimmy saw him without
his chignon and other emblems of novice-hood, that old gentleman
talked to him like a father; but Tommy, knowing he had me to throw the
blame on, quietly told the old man in plain English to go to blazes.
The expression on old Jimmy's face at thus being flouted by a black
boy, was indescribable; he thought it his duty to persecute Tommy
still farther, but now Tommy only laughed at him and said I made him
do it, so old Jimmy gave him up at last as a bad job. Poor old fellow,
he was always talking about his wife and children; I was to have Mary,
and Peter Nicholls Jinny. Alec, Jimmy, and I reached the bay on the
14th, but at Colona, on the 12th, we heard there had been a sad
epidemic amongst the natives since I left, and poor old Jimmy had lost
two of his children, both Mary and Jinny. When he heard this, the poor
old fellow cried, and looked at me, as much as to say if I had not
taken him away he might have saved them. It was but poor consolation
to tell him, what he could not understand, that those whom the gods
love die young. I suffered another loss, as a bright little black boy
called Fry, a great favourite of mine, with splendid eyes and teeth,
whom I had intended to bring with me as a companion for Tommy, was
also dead. I parted from old Jimmy the best of friends, but he was
like Rachael weeping for her children, and would not be comforted. I
gave him money and presents, and dresses for his wife, and anything he
asked for, but this was not very much.

Our stay at Fowler's Bay was not extended longer than I could help.
Mr. Armstrong, the manager, made me a present of a case of brandy, and
as I wanted to take some stores to Youldeh, he allowed me to take back
the camels I had brought him, and sent a man of his--Richard Dorey--to
accompany me to Youldeh, and there take delivery of them.

On the 17th we left the bay, and the spindrift and the spray of the
Southern Ocean, with the glorious main expanding to the skies. We
stayed at Colona with Mr. Murray a couple of days, and finally left it
on the 21st, arriving with Dorey and his black boy at Youldeh on the

Tommy Oldham's father had also died of the epidemic at the bay.
Richard Dorey's black boy broke the news to him very gently, when
Tommy came up to me and said, "Oh, Mr. Giles, my"--adjective [not]
blooming--"old father is dead too." I said, "Is that how you talk of
your poor old father, Tommy, now that he is dead?" To this he replied,
much in the same way as some civilised sons may often have done,
"Well, I couldn't help it!"

I have stated that when I went south with Alec Ross to Fowler's Bay I
despatched my two officers, Mr. Tietkens and Mr. Young, with my black
boy Tommy, to endeavour to discover a new depot to the north, at or as
near to the 29th parallel of latitude as possible. When I returned
from the bay they had returned a day or two before, having discovered
at different places two native wells, a small native dam, and some
clay-pans, each containing water. This was exceedingly good news, and
I wasted no time before I departed from Youldeh. I gave my letters to
Richard Dorey, who had accompanied me back from Fowler's Bay. I will
give my readers a condensation of Mr. Tietkens's report of his journey
with Mr. Young and Tommy.

On leaving Youldeh, in latitude 30 degrees 24' 10" and longitude 131
degrees 46'--they took four camels, three to ride and one to carry
water, rations, blankets, etc.--they went first to the small rock-hole
I had visited with Mr. Murray and old Jimmy, when here in the summer.
This lay about north 74 degrees west, was about fourteen miles
distant, and called Paring. Tommy followed our old horse-tracks, but
on arrival found it dry. The following day they travelled north, and
passed through a country of heavy sandhills and thick scrubs, having
occasional open patches with limestone cropping out, and camped at
twenty-four miles. Continuing their journey the next morning, they
went over better and more open country, and made twenty-four or -five
miles of northing. Some more good country was seen the following day,
but no water, although they saw native tracks and native huts. The
next day they sighted two small flat-topped hills and found a native
well in their neighbourhood; this, however, did not promise a very
good supply of water. The views obtainable from the little hills were
not very inviting, as scrubs appeared to exist in nearly every
direction. This spot was eighty-two miles from Youldeh, and lay nearly
north 10 degrees west. They continued north for another twenty-five
miles, to latitude 28 degrees 52' and longitude about 131 degrees 31',
when they turned to the south-west for eighteen miles, finding a small
native dam with some water in it; then, turning slightly to the north
of west, they found some clay-pans with a little more water. They now
went forty-four miles nearly west from the little dam, and, although
the country seemed improving, they could discover no more water. From
their farthest westerly point in latitude 28 degrees 59' they turned
upon a bearing of south 55 degrees east direct for the native well
found near the little flat-topped hills before mentioned. In their
progress upon this line they entered, at forty-five miles and straight
before them, upon a small open flat space very well grassed, and very
pretty, and upon it they found another native well, and saw some
natives, with whom they held a sort of running conversation. There
were several wells, all containing water. Tommy managed to elicit from
the natives the name of the place, which they said was Ooldabinna.
This seemed a very fortunate discovery, as the first well found near
the flat tops was by no means a good one. Here they encamped, being
highly pleased with their successful journey. They had now found a new
depot, ninety-two miles, lying north 20 degrees west from Youldeh.
From hence they made a straight line back to the camp, where they
awaited my return from the bay.

I was much pleased with their discovery, and on Tuesday, the 27th
July, having nineteen camels and provisions for eight months, and a
perfect equipment for carrying water, we left Youldeh. Richard Dorey,
with his camels and black boy, went away to the south. My caravan
departed in a long single string to the north, and Youldeh and the
place thereof knew us no more.


Ooldabinna depot.
Tietkens and Young go north.
I go west.
A salt expanse.
Dense scrubs.
Deposit two casks of water.
Silence and solitude.
Native footmarks.
A hollow.
Fine vegetation.
A native dam.
A great plain.
A dry march.
Return to the depot.
My officers' report.
Depart for the west.
Method of travelling.
Kill a camel.
Reach the dam.
Death or victory.
Leave the dam.
The hazard of the die.
Five days of scrubs.
Enter a plain.
A terrible journey.
Saleh prays for a rock-hole.
A dry basin at 242 miles.
Watering camels in the desert.
Seventeen days without water.
Tommy finds a supply.
The Great Victoria Desert.
The Queen's Spring.
Farther still west.

On leaving Youldeh I had the choice of first visiting the native well
my two officers had found at the flat tops, eighty-two miles, or the
further one at Ooldabinna, which was ninety-two. I decided to go
straight for the latter. The weather was cool, and the camels could
easily go that distance without water. Their loads were heavy,
averaging now 550 pounds all round. The country all the way consisted
first, of very high and heavy sandhills, with mallee scrubs and thick
spinifex, with occasional grassy flats between, but at one place we
actually crossed a space of nearly ten miles of open, good grassy
limestone country. We travelled very slowly over this region. There
was a little plant, something like mignonette, which the camels were
extremely fond of; we met it first on the grassy ground just
mentioned, and when we had travelled from fifteen to eighteen miles
and found some of it we camped. It took us five days and a half to
reach Ooldabinna, and by the time we arrived there I had travelled
1010 miles from Beltana on all courses. I found Ooldabinna to consist
of a small, pretty, open space amongst the scrubs; it was just dotted
over with mulga-trees, and was no doubt a very favourite resort of the
native owners.

On the flat there was a place where for untold ages the natives have
obtained their water supplies. There were several wells, but my
experience immediately informed me that they were simply rockholes
filled with soil from the periodical rain-waters over the little flat,
the holes lying in the lowest ground, and I perceived that the water
supply was very limited; fortunately, however, there was sufficient
for our immediate requirements. The camels were not apparently thirsty
when we arrived, but drank more the following day; this completely
emptied all the wells, and our supply then depended upon the soakage,
which was of such a small volume that I became greatly disenchanted
with my new home. There was plenty of the mignonette plant, and the
camels did very well; I wanted water here only for a month, but it
seemed probable it would not last a week. We deepened all the wells,
and were most anxious watchers of the fluid as it slowly percolated
through the soil into the bottom of each. After I had been here two
days, and the water supply was getting gradually but surely less, I
naturally became most anxious to discover more, either in a west or
northerly direction; and I again sent my two officers, Messrs.
Tietkens and Young, to the north, to endeavour to discover a supply in
that direction, while I determined to go myself to the west on a
similar errand. I was desirous, as were they, that my two officers
should share the honour of completing a line of discovery from
Youldeh, northwards to the Everard and Musgrave Ranges, and thus
connect those considerable geographical features with the coast-line
at Fowler's Bay; and I promised them if they were fortunate and
discovered more water for a depot to the north, that they should
finish their line, whether I was successful to the west or not. This,
ending at the Musgrave Ranges would form in itself a very interesting
expedition. Those ranges lay nearly 200 miles to the north. As the
Musgrave Range is probably the highest in South Australia and a
continuous chain with the Everard Range, seventy or eighty miles this
side of it, I had every reason to expect that my officers would be
successful in discovering a fresh depot up in a northerly direction.
Their present journey, however, was only to find a new place to which
we might remove, as the water supply might cease at any moment, as at
each succeeding day it became so considerably less. Otherwise this was
a most pleasant little oasis, with such herbage for the camels that it
enabled them to do with very little water, after their first good

We arrived here on Sunday, the 1st of August, and both parties left
again on the 4th. Mr. Tietkens and Mr. Young took only their own
riding and one baggage camel to carry water and other things; they had
thirty gallons of water and ten days' provisions, as I expected they
would easily discover water within less than 100 miles, when they
would immediately return, as it might be necessary for them to remove
the whole camp from this place. I trusted all this to them, requesting
them, however, to hold out here as long as possible, as, if I returned
unsuccessful from the west, my camels might be unable to go any

I was sure that the region to the west was not likely to prove a
Garden of Eden, and I thought it was not improbable that I might have
to go 200 miles before I found any water. If unsuccessful in that way
I should have precisely the same distance to come back again;
therefore, with the probabilities of such a journey before me, I
determined to carry out two casks of water to ninety or a hundred
miles, send some of the camels back from that point and push on with
the remainder. I took six excellent camels, three for riding and three
for carrying loads--two carrying thirty gallons of water each, and the
third provisions, rugs, gear, etc. I took Saleh, my only Afghan
camel-man--usually they are called camel-drivers, but that is a
misnomer, as all camels except riding ones must be led--and young Alec
Ross; Saleh was to return with the camels from the place at which I
should plant the casks, and Alec and I were to go on. The northern
party left on the same day, leaving Peter Nicholls, my cook, and Tommy
the black boy, to look after the camels and camp.


I will first give an outline of my journey to the west. The country,
except in the immediate neighbourhood of the wells, was, as usual in
this region, all sandhills and scrub, although at eighteen miles,
steering west, I came upon the shores of a large salt depression, or
lake-bed, which had numerous sandhill islands scattered about it. It
appeared to extend to a considerable distance southerly. By digging we
easily obtained a quantity of water, but it was all pure brine and
utterly useless. After this we met lake-bed after lake-bed, all in a
region of dense scrubs and sandhills for sixty miles, some were small,
some large, though none of the size of the first one. At seventy-eight
miles from Ooldabinna, having come as near west as it is possible to
steer in such a country on a camel--of course I had a Gregory's
compass--we had met no signs of water fit for man or animal to drink,
though brine and bog existed in most of the lake-beds. The scrubs were
very thick, and were chiefly mallee, the Eucalyptus dumosa, of course
attended by its satellite spinifex. So dense indeed was the growth of
the scrubs, that Alec Ross declared, figuratively speaking, "you could
not see your hand before you." We could seldom get a view a hundred
yards in extent, and we wandered on farther and farther from the only
place where we knew that water existed. At this distance, on the
shores of a salt-lake, there was really a very pretty scene, though in
such a frightful desert. A high, red earthy bank fringed with feathery
mulga and bushes to the brink, overlooking the milk-white expanse of
the lake, and all surrounded by a strip of open ground with the scrubs
standing sullenly back. The open ground looked green, but not with
fertility, for it was mostly composed of bushes of the dull green,
salty samphire. It was the weird, hideous, and demoniacal beauty of
absolute sterility that reigned here. From this place I decided to
send Saleh back with two camels, as this was the middle of the fourth
day. Saleh would have to camp by himself for at least two nights
before he could reach the depot, and the thought of such a thing
almost drove him distracted; I do not suppose he had ever camped out
by himself in his life previously. He devoutly desired to continue on
with us, but go he must, and go he did. We, however, carried the two
casks that one of his camels had brought until we encamped for the
fourth night, being now ninety miles from Ooldabinna.

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