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Australia Twice Traversed by Ernest Giles

Part 6 out of 11

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from Louisa's Creek we camped at another and larger watercourse than
the Chirnside, which I called the Shaw*. All these watercourses ran up
north, the small joining the larger ones--some independently, but all
going to the north. Crossing two more creeks, we were now in the midst
of a broken, pine-clad, hilly country, very well grassed and very
pretty; the hills just named were on the north, and low hills on the
south. Ever since we entered the Livingstone Pass, we have traversed
country which is remarkably free from the odious triodia. Travelling
along in the cool of the next morning through this "wild Parthenius,
tossing in waves of pine," we came at six miles along our course
towards the Sugar-loaf, to a place where we surprised some natives
hunting. Their wonderfully acute perceptions of sight, sound, and
scent almost instantly apprised them of our presence, and as is usual
with these persons, the most frantic yells rent the air. Signal fires
were immediately lighted in all directions, in order to collect the
scattered tribe, and before we had gone a mile we were pursued by a
multitude of howling demons. A great number came running after us,
making the most unearthly noises, screeching, rattling their spears
and other weapons, with the evident intention of not letting us depart
out of their coasts. They drew around so closely and so thick, that
they prevented our horses from going on, and we were compelled to get
out our revolvers for immediate use; we had no rifles with us. A
number from behind threw a lot of spears; we were obliged to let the
pack-horse go--one spear struck him and made him rush and jump about.
This drew their attention from us for a moment; then, just as another
flight of spears was let fly at us, we plunged forward on our horses,
and fired our revolvers. I was horrified to find that mine would not
go off, something was wrong with the cartridges, and, though I snapped
it four times, not a single discharge took place. Fortunately Mr.
Tietkens's went off all right, and what with that, and the pack-horse
rushing wildly about, trying to get up to us, we drove the wretches
off, for a time at least. They seemed far more alarmed at the horses
than at us, of whom they did not seem to have any fear whatever. We
induced them to retire for a bit, and we went on, after catching the
packhorse and breaking about forty of their spears. I believe a wild
Australian native would almost as soon be killed as have his spears
destroyed. The country was now much rougher, the little grassy valleys
having ceased, and we had to take to the hills.


While travelling along here we saw, having previously heard its
rustle, one of those very large iguanas which exist in this part of
the country. We had heard tales of their size and ferocity from the
natives near the Peake (Telegraph Station); I believe they call them
Parenties. The specimen we saw to-day was nearly black, and from head
to tail over five feet long. I should very much have liked to catch
him; he would make two or three good meals for both of us.
Occasionally we got a glimpse of the Sugar-loaf. At nine miles from
where we had encountered the enemy, we came to a bold, bare, rounded
hill, and on ascending it, we saw immediately below us, that this
hilly country ceased immediately to the east, but that it ran on
south-easterly. Two or three small creeks were visible below, then a
thick scrubby region set in, bounded exactly to the east by Mount Olga
itself, which was sixty miles away. There was a large area of bare
rock all about this hill, and in a crevice we got a little water and
turned our horses out. While we were eating our dinner, Mr. Tietkens
gave the alarm that the enemy was upon us again, and instantly we
heard their discordant cries. The horses began to gallop off in
hobbles. These wretches now seemed determined to destroy us, for,
having considerably augmented their numbers, they swarmed around us on
all sides. Two of our new assailants were of commanding stature, each
being nearly tall enough to make two of Tietkens if not of me. These
giants were not, however, the most forward in the onslaught. The
horses galloped off a good way, with Tietkens running after them: in
some trepidation lest my revolver should again play me false, though
of course I had cleaned and re-loaded it, I prepared to defend the
camp. The assailants immediately swarmed round me, those behind
running up, howling, until the whole body were within thirty yards of
me; then they came on more slowly. I could now see that aggression on
my part was the only thing for it; I must try to carry the situation
with a coup. I walked up to them very fast and pointed my revolver at
them. Some, thinking I was only pointing my finger, pointed their
fingers at me. They all had their spears ready and quivering in their
wommerahs, and I am sure I should in another instant have been
transfixed with a score or two of spears, had not Mr. Tietkens, having
tied up the horses, come running up, which caused a moment's
diversion, and both our revolvers going off properly this time, we
made our foes retreat at a better pace than they had advanced. Some of
their spears were smashed in their hands; most of them dropped
everything they carried, and went scudding away over the rocks as fast
as fear and astonishment would permit. We broke all the spears we
could lay our hands on, nearly a hundred, and then finished our

I would here remark that the natives of Australia have two kinds of
spears--namely, the game- and the war-spear. The game-spear is a
thick, heavy implement, barbed with two or three teeth, entirely made
of wood, and thrown by the hand. These are used in stalking large
game, such as emus, kangaroos, etc., when the hunter sneaks on the
quarry, and, at a distance of forty to fifty yards, transfixes it,
though he may not just at the moment kill the animal, it completely
retards its progress, and the hunter can then run it to earth. The
war-spears are different and lighter, the hinder third of them being
reed, the other two-thirds mulga wood; they are barbed, and thrown
with a wommerah, to a distance up to 150 yards, and are sometimes ten
feet long.

After our meal we found a better supply of water in a creek about two
miles southward, where there was both a rock reservoir and sand water.
We had now come about 130 miles from Sladen Water, and had found
waters all the way; Mount Olga was again in sight. The question was,
is the water there permanent? Digging would be of no avail there, it
is all solid rock; either the water is procured on the surface or
there is none. I made this trip to the east, not with any present
intention of retreat, but to discover whether there was a line of
waters to retreat upon, and to become acquainted with as much country
as possible.


The sight of Mount Olga, and the thoughts of retreating to the east,
acted like a spur to drive me farther to the west; we therefore turned
our backs upon Mount Olga and the distant east. I named this gorge,
where we found a good supply of water, Glen Robertson*, and the creek
that comes from it, Casterton Creek. Mount Olga, as I said, bore
nearly due east; its appearance from here, which we always called the
farthest east, was most wonderful and grotesque. It seemed like five
or six enormous pink hay-stacks, leaning for support against one
another, with open cracks or fissures between, which came only about
half-way down its face. I am sure this is one of the most
extraordinary geographical features on the face of the earth, for, as
I have said, it is composed of several enormous rounded stone shapes,
like the backs of several monstrous kneeling pink elephants. At sixty
miles to the west its outline is astonishing. The highest point of
all, which is 1500 feet above the surrounding country, looked at from
here, presents the appearance of a gigantic pink damper, or Chinese
gong viewed edgeways, and slightly out of the perpendicular. We did
not return to the scene of our fight and our dinner, but went about
two miles northerly beyond it, when we had to take to the rough hills
again; we had to wind in and out amongst these, and in four miles
struck our outgoing tracks. We found the natives had followed us up
step by step, and had tried to stamp the marks of the horses' hoofs
out of the ground with their own. They had walked four or five
abreast, and consequently made a path more easy for us to remark. We
saw them raising puffs of smoke behind us, but did not anticipate any
more annoyance from them. We pushed on till dark, to the spot where we
had met them in the morning; here we encamped without water.

Before daylight I went for the horses, while Mr. Tietkens got the swag
and things ready to start away. I returned, tied up the horses, and we
had just begun to eat the little bit of damper we had for breakfast,
when Mr. Tietkens, whose nervous system seems particularly alive to
any native approach, gave the alarm, that our pursuers were again upon
us, and we were again saluted with their hideous outcries. Breakfast
was now a matter of minor import; instantly we slung everything on to
the horses, and by the time that was done we were again surrounded. I
almost wished we had only one of our rifles which we had left at home.
We could do nothing with such an insensate, insatiable mob of wretches
as these; as a novelist would say, we flung ourselves into our saddles
as fast as we could, and fairly gave our enemies the slip, through the
speed of our horses, they running after us like a pack of yelping
curs, in maddening bray. The natives ran well for a long distance,
nearly three miles, but the pace told on them at last and we
completely distanced them. Had we been unsuccessful in finding water
in this region and then met these demons, it is more than probable we
should never have escaped. I don't sigh to meet them again; the great
wonder was that they did not sneak upon and spear us in the night, but
the fact of our having a waterless encampment probably deterred them.
We kept at a good pace till we reached the Chirnside, and gave our
horses a drink, but went on twenty miles to Louisa's Creek before we
rested. We only remained here an hour. We saw no more of our enemies,
but pushed on another twenty-two miles, till we reached the Hull,
where we could find no water.

On the subject of the natives, I may inform my reader that we often
see places at native camps where the ground has been raised for many
yards, like a series of babies' graves; these are the sleeping-places
of the young and unmarried men, they scoop the soil out of a place and
raise it up on each side: these are the bachelors' beds--twenty,
thirty, and forty are sometimes seen in a row; on top of each raised
portion of soil two small fires are kept burning in lieu of blankets.
Some tribes have their noses pierced, others not. Some have front
teeth knocked out, and others not. In some tribes only women have
teeth knocked out.

Our supply of food now consisted of just sufficient flour to make two
small Johnny-cakes, and as we still had over eighty miles to go, we
simply had to do without any food all day, and shall have precisely
the same quantity to-morrow--that is to say, none. In eleven or twelve
miles next morning we reached the caves near the Ruined Rampart, where
we rested and allowed the horses to feed. At night we camped again
without food or water. The morning after, we reached Gill's Pinnacle
early, and famished enough to eat each other. We mixed up, cooked, and
ate our small remnant of flour. The last two days have been reasonably
cool; anything under 100 degrees is cool in this region. We found that
during our absence the natives had placed a quantity of gum-leaves and
small boughs into the interstices of the small mounds of stone, or as
I call them, teocallis, which I mentioned previously; this had
evidently been done so soon as we departed, for they were now dead and
dry. After bathing, remounting, we made good another twenty miles, and
camped in triodia and casuarina sandhills. We reached the camp at the
pass by nine a.m. on the 19th, having been absent ten days. Gibson and
Jimmy were there certainly, and nothing had gone wrong, but these two
poor fellows looked as pale as ghosts. Gibson imagined we had gone to
the west, and was much perturbed by our protracted absence.

The water in the open holes did not agree with either Gibson or Jimmy,
and, when starting, I had shown them where to dig for a spring of
fresh water, and where I had nearly got a horse bogged one day when I
rode there, to see what it was like. They had not, however, made the
slightest effort to look for or dig it out. I gave them the last of
our medical spirits, only half a bottle of rum, at starting. They had
shot plenty of parrots and pigeons, and one or two ducks; but, now
that the ammunition is all but gone, a single shot is of the greatest
consideration. We have only a few pounds of flour, and a horse we must
kill, in order to live ourselves. A few finishing touches to the
smoke-house required doing; this Mr. Tietkens and Jimmy went to do,
while Gibson and I cut up a tarpaulin to make large water-bags, and
with a small lot of new canvas made four pairs of water-bags that
would hold seven to eight gallons each. These, when greased with horse
fat or oil, ought to enable me to get out some distance from the
western extremity of this range. Poor old Terrible Billy came to water
early, and I was much pleased with his appearance, but his little
house not being quite ready and the bags not completed, he has a day
or so longer of grace. I had looked forward eagerly to the time of the
autumnal equinox, in hopes of rain. But all we got, however, was three
dry thunderstorms and a few drops of rain, which fell upon us en route
to some more favoured land. The next day being Sunday, we had a day of

Near the place to which I had been dragged, there were several little
heaps of stones, or rather, as a general rule, small circles of
piled-up stones removed from where they had formerly lain, with the
exception of a solitary one left in the centre. For what purpose the
natives could have made or cleared these places I cannot tell; they
were reserved for some ceremonies, no doubt, like those at Gill's
Pinnacle. The last few days have been very cool, the thermometer
indicating one day only 78 degrees in the shade. On the 25th Gibson
took the shovel to open out the springs formerly mentioned; they lie
in the midst of several little clumps of young eucalyptus suckers, the
ground all round being a morass, in which a man might almost sink,
were it not for the thick growth of rushes. The water appears to flow
over several acres of ground, appearing and disappearing in places.
The moment a small space was cleared of the rushes, it became evident
that the water was perpetually flowing, and we stood on rushes over
our ankles in black soil. Gibson dug a small tank, and the water soon
cleared for itself a beautiful little crystal basin of the purest
liquid, much more delicious and wholesome than the half brackish water
in the bed of the creek. These springs have their origin at the foot
of the hill on the eastern side of this pass, and percolate into the
creek-bed, where the water becomes impregnated with salt or soda. The
water in the open holes in the creek-bed is always running; I thought
the supply came from up the creek--now, however, I find it comes from
these fresh-water springs. I branded a tree in this pass E. Giles with

On the 25th March the plump but old and doomed Terrible Billy
confidingly came to water at eleven o'clock at night. He took his last
drink, and was led a captive to the camp, where he was tied up all
night. The old creature looked remarkably well, and when tied up close
to the smoke-house--innocent, unsuspecting creature of what the craft
and subtilty of the devil or man might work against him--he had begun
to eat a bunch or two of grass, when a rifle bullet crashing through
his forehead terminated his existence. There was some little fat about
him; it took some time to cut up the meat into strips, which were hung
on sticks and placed in tiers in the pyramidal smoke-house.

We had a fine supper of horse-steaks, which we relished amazingly.
Terrible Billy tasted much better than the cob we had killed at
Elder's Creek. What fat there was on the inside was very yellow, and
so soft it would not harden at all. With a very fat horse a salvage of
fat might be got on portions of the meat, but nearly every particle of
the fat drips into oil. The smoke-house is now the object of our
solicitude; a column of smoke ascends from the immolated Billy night
and day. Our continual smoke induced some natives to make their
appearance, but they kept at a very respectful distance, coming no
nearer than the summit of the hills, on either side of the pass, from
whence they had a good bird's-eye view of our proceedings. They
saluted us with a few cheers, i.e. groans, as they watched us from
their observatory.

The weather is now beautifully cool, fine, and clear. We had now
finished smoking Terrible Billy who still maintained his name, for he
was terribly tough. I intended to make an attempt to push westward
from the end of this range, and all we required was the horses to
carry us away; but getting them was not the easiest thing in the
world, for they were all running loose. Although they have to come to
the pass to get water, there is water for more than a mile, and some
come sneaking quietly down without making the slightest noise, get a
drink, and then, giving a snort of derision to let us know, off they
go at a gallop. They run in mobs of twos and threes; so now we have
systematically to watch for, catch, and hobble them. I set a watch
during the night, and as they came, they were hobbled and put down
through the north side of the pass. They could not get back past the
camp without the watchman both hearing and seeing them; for it was now
fine moonlight the greater part of the night. We had ten or twelve
horses, but only two came to-night for water, and these got away
before we could catch them, as two of the party let them drink before
catching them. None came in the day, and only two the next night;
these we caught, hobbled, and put with the others, which were always
trying to get back past the camp, so to-night I had a horse saddled to
be sure of catching any that came, and keeping those we had. During my
watch, the second, several horses tried to pass the camp. I drove them
back twice, and had no more trouble with them; but in the morning,
when we came to muster them, every hoof was gone. Of course nobody had
let them go! Every other member of the party informed me that they
were ready to take their dying oaths that the horses never got away in
their watches, and that neither of them had any trouble whatever in
driving them back, etc.; so I could only conclude that I must have let
them all go myself, because, as they were gone, and nobody else let
them go, why, of course, I suppose I must. After breakfast Mr.
Tietkens went to try to recover them, but soon returned, informing me
he had met a number of natives at the smoke-house, who appeared very
peaceably inclined, and who were on their road down through the pass.
This was rather unusual; previous to our conflict they had never come
near us, and since that, they had mostly given us a wide berth, and
seemed to prefer being out of the reach of our rifles than otherwise.
They soon appeared, although they kept away on the east side of the
creek. They then shouted, and when I cooeyed and beckoned them to
approach, they sat down in a row. I may here remark that the word
cooey, as representing the cry of all Australian aborigines, belonged
originally to only one tribe or region, but it has been carried about
by whites from tribe to tribe, and is used by the civilised and
semi-civilised races; but wild natives who have never seen whites use
no such cry. There were thirteen of these men. Mr. Tietkens and I went
over to them, and we had quite a friendly conference. Their leader was
an individual of a very uncertain age--he might have been forty, or he
might have been eighty (in the shade). (This was written some time
before the "Mikado" appeared.--E.G.) His head was nearly bald on the
crown, but some long grizzly locks depended below the bald patch.

The others were generally much younger, but some of them, though not
clean past their youth, yet had about them some smacks of the saltness
of age. The old man was the most self-possessed; the others displayed
a nervous tremor at our approach; those nearest us sidled closer to
their more remote and, as they no doubt thought, fortunate fellows;
they were all extremely ill-favoured in face, but their figures were
not so outres, except that they appeared emaciated and starved,
otherwise they would have been men of good bulk. Their legs were
straight, and their height would average five feet nine inches, all
being much taller than Mr. Tietkens or I. Two remained at a distance;
these had a great charge to superintend, it being no less than that of
the trained wild dogs belonging to the tribe. There were three large
dogs, two of a light sandy, and one of a kind of German colley colour.
These natives were armed with an enormous number of light barbed
spears, each having about a dozen. They do not appear to use the
boomerang very generally in this part of the continent, although we
have occasionally picked up portions of old ones in our travels. Mr.
Tietkens gave each of these natives a small piece of sugar, with which
they seemed perfectly charmed, and in consequence patted the seat of
their intellectual--that is to say, digestive--organs with great
gusto, as the saccharine morsels liquefied in their mouths. They
seemed highly pleased with the appearance and antics of my little dog,
who both sat and stood up at command in the midst of them.

They kept their own dogs away, I presume, for fear we might want to
seize them for food--wild dog standing in about the same relation to a
wild Australian native, as a sheep would to a white man. They eat all
the grown dogs they can catch, but keep a few pups to train for
hunting, and wonderful hunting dogs they are. Hence their fear of our
taking their pets. The old gentleman was much delighted with my watch.
I then showed them some matches, and the instantaneous ignition of
some grass in the midst of them was rather too startling a phenomenon
for their weak minds; some of them rose to depart. The old man,
however, reassured them. I presented him with several matches, and
showed him how to use them; he was very much pleased, and having no
pockets in his coat--for I might have previously remarked they were
arrayed in Nature's simple garb--he stuck them in his hair. Mr.
Tietkens, during this time, was smoking, and the sight of smoke
issuing from his mouth seemed to disturb even the old man's assumed
imperturbability, and he kept much closer to me in consequence. I next
showed them a revolver, and tried to explain the manner of using it.
Most of them repeated the word bang when I said it; but when I fired
it off they were too agitated to take much notice of its effect on the
bark of a tree, which might otherwise have served to point a moral or
adorn a tale in the oral traditions of their race for ever. At the
report of the revolver all rose and seemed in haste to go, but I would
not allow my dear old friend to depart without a few last friendly
expressions. One of these natives was pitted with small-pox. They
seemed to wish to know where we were going, and when I pointed west,
and by shaking my fingers intimated a long way, many of them pulled
their beards and pointed to us, and the old man gave my beard a slight
pull and pointed west; this I took to signify that they were aware
that other white people like us lived in that direction. The
conference ended, and they departed over the hills on the east side of
the pass, but it was two hours before they disappeared.

All the horses which had escaped in hobbles the other night now came
to water, and were put through the pass again. During the day we
secured the remainder, and had them altogether at last. It was noon of
the 7th April when we left this delectable pass, again en route for
the west, hoping to see Sladen Water and the Pass of the Abencerrages
no more. At fourteen miles we were delayed by Banks, carrying my
boxes, as a strap broke, and he set to work to free himself of
everything. Fortunately, one box with the instruments, quicksilver,
etc., remained firm; everything got bucked and kicked out of the
other; buckskin gloves, matches, mineral collection, rifle cartridges,
bottles of medicine, eye-water, socks, specimens of plants, etc., all
sent flying about in the thick triodia, for the brute went full gallop
all round the mob of horses, trying to get rid of the other box and
his saddle. In spite of all his efforts they remained, and it was
wonderful how many things we recovered, though some were lost. By this
time it was dusk, and the evening set in very cool. I now intended to
encamp at the fine spring I named Fort McKellar, four miles east of
the Gorge of Tarns. There was a fine and heavy clump of eucalyptus
timber there, and a very convenient and open sheet of water for the
use of the camp. I had always looked upon this as an excellent and
desirable spot for an encampment, though we had never used it yet. The
grass, however, is neither good nor abundant; the country around being
stony and sterile, except down the immediate valley of the channel,
which was not wide enough to graze a mob of horses for long. We
reached it again on the 9th of April.

My reader will remember that in January I had found a creek with a
large, rocky tarn of water, which I called the Circus; it was the last
westerly water on the range, and I was anxious to know how it was
holding out, as it must be our point of departure for any farther
efforts to the west. It was twenty miles from here, and Gibson and I
rode up the range to inspect it. On our road we revisited the Gorge of
Tarns; the water there had shrunk very much. Here we had left some
useless articles, such as three pack-saddle frames, a broken
thermometer, and sundry old gear; all these things the natives had
carried away. I had a good swim in the old tarn, and proceeded,
reaching the Circus early in the afternoon. There was the solitary
eagle still perched upon its rock. The water had become greatly
reduced; ten weeks and two days had elapsed since I was here; and in
another fortnight it would all be gone. If I intend doing anything
towards the west it must be done at once or it will be too late. The
day was warm--102 degrees. A large flock of galars, a slate-coloured
kind of cockatoo, and a good talking bird, and hundreds of pigeons
came to water at night; but having no ammunition, we did not bring a
gun. The water was so low in the hole that the horses could not reach
it, and had to be watered with a canvas bucket. I have said
previously, that at the extremity of this range there lay an ancient
lake bed, but I had only been a mile or two upon it. Further on there
were indications of salt, and as we were quite out of that commodity,
we rode over to try and procure some, but none existed, and we had to
be satisfied with a quantity of samphire bushes and salt-bush leaves,
which we took home with us, returning to Fort McKellar the following
day. I called the salt feature Lake Christopher. We remained at the
depot for a day or two, preparing for a start to the west, and cut
rails, and fixed up some palisading for the fort. I delayed entering
that evidently frightful bed of sand which lay to the west, in hopes
of a change, for I must admit I dreaded to attempt the western country
while the weather was still so hot and oppressive. Though the
thermometer may not appear to rise extraordinarily high in this
region, yet the weight and pressure of the atmosphere is sometimes
almost overpowering. Existence here is in a permanent state of
languor, and I am sure the others in the party feel it more than I do,
being consumed with the fire or frenzy of renown for opening unknown
lands, all others have to pale their ineffectual fires before it. No
doubt, not being well fed is some cause for our feelings of lassitude.
The horses are also affected with extreme languor, as well as the men.
The thermometer to-day registered only 99 degrees. The horses are
always trying to roam away back to Sladen Water, and Mr. Tietkens and
I had a walk of many miles after them to-day. I was getting really
anxious about the water at the Circus. I scarcely dare to grapple with
that western desert in such weather, yet, if I do not, I shall lose
the Circus water.

Although we were near the change of the moon, I despaired of a change
of weather. I did not ask for rain, for it would be useless on the
desert sands; I only wanted the atmosphere to become a little less
oppressive. I had not been round the extreme western end of the range,
though we had been to it, and I thought perhaps some creek might be
found to contain a good rock-hole, perhaps as far to the west, if not
farther, than the Circus; on the opposite side of the range, Mr.
Tietkens and Gibson, who volunteered, went to see what they could
discover, also to visit the Circus so as to report upon it. Jimmy and
I remained and erected some more woodwork--that is to say, rails and
uprights--for the fort. We walked over to re-inspect--Jimmy had not
seen them--two glens and springs lying within a couple of miles to the
east of us, the first being about three-quarters of a mile off. I now
named it Tyndall's Springs. Here a fine stream of running water
descends much further down the channel than at any other spring in the
range, though it spreads into no open sheets of water as at the depot;
there was over a mile of running water. The channel is thickly set
with fine tall bulrushes. There is a very fine shady clump of
gum-trees here, close to the base of the range. The next spring, about
a mile farther east, I called Groener's Springs; it had not such a
strong flow of water, but the trees in the clump at the head of it
were much larger and more numerous than at the last. Some of the
trees, as was the case at Fort McKellar, were of very considerable
size. Late at night Mr. Tietkens and Gibson returned, and reported
that, although they had discovered a new rock-hole with seven or eight
feet of water in it, it was utterly useless; for no horses could get
within three-quarters of a mile of it, and they had been unable to
water their horses, having had to do so at the Circus. They said the
water there was holding out well; but Gibson said it had diminished a
good deal since he and I were there a week ago. On the 19th April I
told the party it was useless to delay longer, and that I had made up
my mind to try what impression a hundred miles would make on the
country to the west. I had waited and waited for a change, not to say
rain, and it seemed as far off as though the month were November,
instead of April. I might still keep on waiting, until every ounce of
our now very limited supply of rations was gone. We were now, and had
been since Billy was killed, living entirely on smoked horse; we only
had a few pounds of flour left, which I kept in case of sickness; the
sugar was gone; only a few sticks of tobacco for Mr. Tietkens and
Gibson--Jimmy and I not smoking--remained. I had been disappointed at
the Charlotte Waters at starting, by not being able to get my old
horse, and had started from the Alberga, lacking him and the 200
pounds of flour he would have carried--a deficiency which considerably
shortened my intended supply. A comparatively enormous quantity of
flour had been lost by the continual rippings of bags in the scrubs
farther south, and also a general loss in weight of nearly ten per
cent., from continual handling of the bags, and evaporation. We had
supplemented our supplies in a measure at Fort Mueller and the Pass,
with pigeons and wallabies, as long as our ammunition lasted, and now
it was done. When I made known my intention, Gibson immediately
volunteered to accompany me, and complained of having previously been
left so often and so long in the camp. I much preferred Mr. Tietkens,
as I felt sure the task we were about to undertake was no ordinary
one, and I knew Mr. Tietkens was to be depended upon to the last under
any circumstances, but, to please Gibson, he waived his right, and,
though I said nothing, I was not at all pleased.


Gibson and I depart for the west.
His brother with Franklin.
Desert oaks.
Smoked horse.
Ants innumerable.
Turn two horses back.
Kegs in a tree.
No views.
Instinct of horses.
Sight a distant range.
Gibson's horse dies.
Give him the remaining one.
The last ever seen of him.
Alone in the desert.
Carry a keg.
Where is the relief party.
A dying wallaby.
Footfalls of a galloping horse.
Reach the depot.
Search for the lost.
Gibson's Desert.
Another smoke-house.
Jimmy attacked at Fort McKellar.
Another equine victim.
Final retreat decided upon.
Marks of floods.
Peculiarity of the climate.
Remarks on the region.
Three natives visit us.


APRIL 20TH, 1874.

Gibson and I having got all the gear we required, took a week's supply
of smoked horse, and four excellent horses, two to ride, and two to
carry water, all in fine condition. I rode the Fair Maid of Perth, an
excellent walker; I gave Gibson the big ambling horse, Badger, and we
packed the big cob, a splendid bay horse and fine weight-carrier, with
a pair of waterbags that contained twenty gallons at starting. The
other horse was Darkie, a fine, strong, nuggetty-black horse, who
carried two five-gallon kegs of water and our stock of smoked horse,
rugs, etc. We reached the Circus, at twenty miles, early, and the
horses had time to feed and fill themselves after being watered,
though the grass was very poor.


While I went for the horses Gibson topped up the water-bags and kegs,
and poured a quantity of water out of the hole on to a shallow place,
so that if we turned any horses back, they could drink without
precipitating themselves into the deep and slippery hole when they
returned here. As we rode away, I remarked to Gibson that the day, was
the anniversary of Burke and Wills's return to their depot at Cooper's
Creek, and then recited to him, as he did not appear to know anything
whatever about it, the hardships they endured, their desperate
struggles for existence, and death there, and I casually remarked that
Wills had a brother who also lost his life in the field of discovery.
He had gone out with Sir John Franklin in 1845. Gibson then said, "Oh!
I had a brother who died with Franklin at the North Pole, and my
father had a deal of trouble to get his pay from government." He
seemed in a very jocular vein this morning, which was not often the
case, for he was usually rather sulky, sometimes for days together,
and he said, "How is it, that in all these exploring expeditions a lot
of people go and die?" I said, "I don't know, Gibson, how it is, but
there are many dangers in exploring, besides accidents and attacks
from the natives, that may at any time cause the death of some of the
people engaged in it; but I believe want of judgment, or knowledge, or
courage in individuals, often brought about their deaths. Death,
however, is a thing that must occur to every one sooner or later." To
this he replied, "Well, I shouldn't like to die in this part of the
country, anyhow." In this sentiment I quite agreed with him, and the
subject dropped. At eleven miles we were not only clear of the range,
but had crossed to the western side of Lake Christopher, and were
fairly enclosed in the sandhills, which were of course covered with
triodia. Numerous fine casuarinas grew in the hollows between them,
and some stunted blood-wood-trees, (red gum,) ornamented the tops of
some of the sandhills. At twenty-two miles, on a west course, we
turned the horses out for an hour. It was very warm, there was no
grass. The horses rested in the shade of a desert oak-tree, while we
remained under another. These trees are very handsome, with round
umbrageous tops, the leaves are round and fringe-like. We had a meal
of smoked horse; and here I discovered that the bag with our supply of
horseflesh in it held but a most inadequate supply for two of us for a
week, there being scarcely sufficient for one. Gibson had packed it at
starting, and I had not previously seen it. The afternoon was
oppressively hot--at least it always seems so when one is away from
water. We got over an additional eighteen miles, making a day's stage
of forty.

The country was all sandhills. The Rawlinson Range completely
disappeared from view, even from the tops of the highest sandhills, at
thirty-five miles. The travelling, though heavy enough, had not been
so frightful as I had anticipated, for the lines of sandhills mostly
ran east and west, and by turning about a bit we got several hollows
between them to travel in. Had we been going north or south,
north-easterly or south-westerly, it would have been dreadfully
severe. The triodia here reigns supreme, growing in enormous bunches
and plots, and standing three and four feet high, while many of the
long dry tops are as high as a man. This gives the country the
appearance of dry grassy downs; and as it is dotted here and there
with casuarina and blood-wood-trees, and small patches of desert
shrubs, its general appearance is by no means displeasing to the eye,
though frightful to the touch. No sign of the recent presence of
natives was anywhere visible, nor had the triodia been burnt for
probably many years. At night we got what we in this region may be
excused for calling a grass flat, there being some bunches of a thin
and wiry kind of grass, though white and dry as a chip. I never saw
the horses eat more than a mouthful or two of it anywhere, but there
was nothing else, and no water.


The ants were so troublesome last night, I had to shift my bed several
times. Gibson was not at all affected by them, and slept well. We were
in our saddles immediately after daylight. I was in hopes that a few
miles might bring about a change of country, and so it did, but not an
advantageous one to us. At ten miles from camp the horizon became
flatter, the sandhills fell off, and the undulations became covered
with brown gravel, at first very fine. At fifty-five miles it became
coarser, and at sixty miles it was evident the country was becoming
firmer, if not actually stony. Here we turned the horses out, having
come twenty miles. I found one of our large waterbags leaked more than
I expected, and our supply of water was diminishing with distance.
Here Gibson preferred to keep the big cob to ride, against my advice,
instead of Badger, so, after giving Badger and Darkie a few pints of
water each, Gibson drove them back on the tracks about a mile and let
them go, to take their own time and find their own way back to the
Circus. They both looked terribly hollow and fatigued, and went away
very slowly. Sixty miles through such a country as this tells
fearfully upon a horse. The poor brutes were very unwilling to leave
us, as they knew we had some water, and they also knew what a fearful
region they had before them to reach the Circus again.

We gave the two remaining horses all the water contained in the two
large water-bags, except a quart or two for ourselves. This allowed
them a pretty fair drink, though not a circumstance to what they would
have swallowed. They fed a little, while we remained here. The day was
warm enough. The two five-gallon kegs with water we hung in the
branches of a tree, with the packsaddles, empty water-bags, etc. of
the other two horses. Leaving the Kegs--I always called this place by
that name--we travelled another twenty miles by night, the country
being still covered with small stones and thickly clothed with the
tall triodia. There were thin patches of mulga and mallee scrub
occasionally. No view could be obtained to the west; all round us,
north, south, east, and west, were alike, the undulations forming the
horizons were not generally more than seven or eight miles distant
from one another, and when we reached the rim or top of one, we
obtained exactly the same view for the next seven or eight miles. The
country still retained all the appearance of fine, open, dry, grassy
downs, and the triodia tops waving in the heated breeze had all the
semblance of good grass. The afternoon had been very oppressive, and
the horses were greatly disinclined to exert themselves, though my
mare went very well. It was late by the time we encamped, and the
horses were much in want of water, especially the big cob, who kept
coming up to the camp all night, and tried to get at our water-bags,
pannikins, etc. The instinct of a horse when in the first stage of
thirst in getting hold of any utensil that ever had water in it, is
surprising and most annoying, but teaching us by most persuasive
reasons how akin they are to human things. We had one small water-bag
hung in a tree. I did not think of this just at the moment, when my
mare came straight up to it and took it in her teeth, forcing out the
cork and sending the water up, which we were both dying to drink, in a
beautiful jet, which, descending to earth, was irrevocably lost. We
now had only a pint or two left. Gibson was now very sorry he had
exchanged Badger for the cob, as he found the cob very dull and heavy
to get on; this was not usual, for he was generally a most willing
animal, but he would only go at a jog while my mare was a fine walker.
There had been a hot wind from the north all day. The following
morning (23rd) there was a most strange dampness in the air, and I had
a vague feeling, such as must have been felt by augurs, and seers of
old, who trembled as they told, events to come; for this was the last
day on which I ever saw Gibson. It was a lamentable day in the history
of this expedition. The horizon to the west was hid in clouds. We left
the camp even before daylight, and as we had camped on the top of a
rim, we knew we had seven or eight miles to go before another view
could be obtained. The next rim was at least ten miles from the camp,
and there was some slight indications of a change.


We were now ninety miles from the Circus water, and 110 from Fort
McKellar. The horizon to the west was still obstructed by another rise
three or four miles away; but to the west-north-west I could see a
line of low stony ridges, ten miles off. To the south was an isolated
little hill, six or seven miles away. I determined to go to the
ridges, when Gibson complained that his horse could never reach them,
and suggested that the next rise to the west might reveal something
better in front. The ridges were five miles away, and there were
others still farther preventing a view. When we reached them we had
come ninety-eight miles from the Circus. Here Gibson, who was always
behind, called out and said his horse was going to die, or knock up,
which are synonymous terms in this region. Now we had reached a point
where at last a different view was presented to us, and I believed a
change of country was at hand, for the whole western, down to the
south-western, horizon was broken by lines of ranges, being most
elevated at the south-western end. They were all notched and
irregular, and I believed formed the eastern extreme of a more
elevated and probably mountainous region to the west. The ground we
now stood upon, and for a mile or two past, was almost a stony hill
itself, and for the first time in all the distance we had come, we had
reached a spot where water might run during rain, though we had not
seen any place where it could lodge. Between us and the hilly horizon
to the west the country seemed to fall into a kind of long valley, and
it looked dark, and seemed to have timber in it, and here also the
natives had formerly burnt the spinifex, but not recently. The hills
to the west were twenty-five to thirty miles away, and it was with
extreme regret I was compelled to relinquish a farther attempt to
reach them. Oh, how ardently I longed for a camel! how ardently I
gazed upon this scene! At this moment I would even my jewel eternal,
have sold for power to span the gulf that lay between! But it could
not be, situated as I was; compelled to retreat--of course with the
intention of coming again with a larger supply of water--now the
sooner I retreated the better. These far-off hills were named the
Alfred and Marie Range, in honour of their Royal Highnesses the Duke
and Duchess of Edinburgh. Gibson's horse having got so bad had placed
us both in a great dilemma; indeed, ours was a most critical position.
We turned back upon our tracks, when the cob refused to carry his
rider any farther, and tried to lie down. We drove him another mile on
foot, and down he fell to die. My mare, the Fair Maid of Perth, was
only too willing to return; she had now to carry Gibson's saddle and
things, and we went away walking and riding by turns of half an hour.
The cob, no doubt, died where he fell; not a second thought could be
bestowed on him.

When we got back to about thirty miles from the Kegs I was walking,
and having concluded in my mind what course to pursue, I called to
Gibson to halt till I walked up to him. We were both excessively
thirsty, for walking had made us so, and we had scarcely a pint of
water left between us. However, of what we had we each took a
mouthful, which finished the supply, and I then said--for I couldn't
speak before--"Look here, Gibson, you see we are in a most terrible
fix with only one horse, therefore only one can ride, and one must
remain behind. I shall remain: and now listen to me. If the mare does
not get water soon she will die; therefore ride right on; get to the
Kegs, if possible, to-night, and give her water. Now the cob is dead
there'll be all the more for her; let her rest for an hour or two, and
then get over a few more miles by morning, so that early to-morrow you
will sight the Rawlinson, at twenty-five miles from the Kegs. Stick to
the tracks, and never leave them. Leave as much water in one keg for
me as you can afford after watering the mare and filling up your own
bags, and, remember, I depend upon you to bring me relief. Rouse Mr.
Tietkens, get fresh horses and more water-bags, and return as soon as
you possibly can. I shall of course endeavour to get down the tracks


He then said if he had a compass he thought he could go better at
night. I knew he didn't understand anything about compasses, as I had
often tried to explain them to him. The one I had was a Gregory's
Patent, of a totally different construction from ordinary instruments
of the kind, and I was very loth to part with it, as it was the only
one I had. However, he was so anxious for it that I gave it him, and
he departed. I sent one final shout after him to stick to the tracks,
to which he replied, "All right," and the mare carried him out of
sight almost immediately. That was the last ever seen of Gibson.

I walked slowly on, and the further I walked the more thirsty I
became. I had thirty miles to go to reach the Kegs, which I could not
reach until late to-morrow at the rate I was travelling, and I did not
feel sure that I could keep on at that. The afternoon was very hot. I
continued following the tracks until the moon went down, and then had
to stop. The night was reasonably cool, but I was parched and choking
for water. How I longed again for morning! I hoped Gibson had reached
the Kegs, and that he and the mare were all right. I could not sleep
for thirst, although towards morning it became almost cold. How I
wished this planet would for once accelerate its movements and turn
upon its axis in twelve instead of twenty-four hours, or rather that
it would complete its revolution in six hours.



So soon as it was light I was again upon the horse tracks, and reached
the Kegs about the middle of the day. Gibson had been here, and
watered the mare, and gone on. He had left me a little over two
gallons of water in one keg, and it may be imagined how glad I was to
get a drink. I could have drunk my whole supply in half an hour, but
was compelled to economy, for I could not tell how many days would
elapse before assistance could come: it could not be less than five,
it might be many more. After quenching my thirst a little I felt
ravenously hungry, and on searching among the bags, all the food I
could find was eleven sticks of dirty, sandy, smoked horse, averaging
about an ounce and a half each, at the bottom of a pack-bag. I was
rather staggered to find that I had little more than a pound weight of
meat to last me until assistance came. However, I was compelled to eat
some at once, and devoured two sticks raw, as I had no water to spare
to boil them in.

After this I sat in what shade the trees afforded, and reflected on
the precariousness of my position. I was sixty miles from water, and
eighty from food, my messenger could hardly return before six days,
and I began to think it highly probable that I should be dead of
hunger and thirst long before anybody could possibly arrive. I looked
at the keg; it was an awkward thing to carry empty. There was nothing
else to carry water in, as Gibson had taken all the smaller
water-bags, and the large ones would require several gallons of water
to soak the canvas before they began to tighten enough to hold water.
The keg when empty, with its rings and straps, weighed fifteen pounds,
and now it had twenty pounds of water in it. I could not carry it
without a blanket for a pad for my shoulder, so that with my revolver
and cartridge-pouch, knife, and one or two other small things on my
belt, I staggered under a weight of about fifty pounds when I put the
keg on my back. I only had fourteen matches.

After I had thoroughly digested all points of my situation, I
concluded that if I did not help myself Providence wouldn't help me. I
started, bent double by the keg, and could only travel so slowly that
I thought it scarcely worth while to travel at all. I became so
thirsty at each step I took, that I longed to drink up every drop of
water I had in the keg, but it was the elixir of death I was burdened
with, and to drink it was to die, so I restrained myself. By next
morning I had only got about three miles away from the Kegs, and to do
that I travelled mostly in the moonlight. The next few days I can only
pass over as they seemed to pass with me, for I was quite unconscious
half the time, and I only got over about five miles a day.

To people who cannot comprehend such a region it may seem absurd that
a man could not travel faster than that. All I can say is, there may
be men who could do so, but most men in the position I was in would
simply have died of hunger and thirst, for by the third or fourth
day--I couldn't tell which--my horse meat was all gone. I had to
remain in what scanty shade I could find during the day, and I could
only travel by night.

When I lay down in the shade in the morning I lost all consciousness,
and when I recovered my senses I could not tell whether one day or two
or three had passed. At one place I am sure I must have remained over
forty-eight hours. At a certain place on the road--that is to say, on
the horse tracks--at about fifteen miles from the Kegs--at twenty-five
miles the Rawlinson could again be sighted--I saw that the tracks of
the two loose horses we had turned back from there had left the main
line of tracks, which ran east and west, and had turned about
east-south-east, and the tracks of the Fair Maid of Perth, I was
grieved to see, had gone on them also. I felt sure Gibson would soon
find his error, and return to the main line. I was unable to
investigate this any farther in my present position. I followed them
about a mile, and then returned to the proper line, anxiously looking
at every step to see if Gibson's horse tracks returned into them.

They never did, nor did the loose horse tracks either. Generally
speaking, whenever I saw a shady desert oak-tree there was an enormous
bulldog ants' nest under it, and I was prevented from sitting in its
shade. On what I thought was the 27th I almost gave up the thought of
walking any farther, for the exertion in this dreadful region, where
the triodia was almost as high as myself, and as thick as it could
grow, was quite overpowering, and being starved, I felt quite
light-headed. After sitting down, on every occasion when I tried to
get up again, my head would swim round, and I would fall down
oblivious for some time. Being in a chronic state of burning thirst,
my general plight was dreadful in the extreme. A bare and level sandy
waste would have been Paradise to walk over compared to this. My arms,
legs, thighs, both before and behind, were so punctured with spines,
it was agony only to exist; the slightest movement and in went more
spines, where they broke off in the clothes and flesh, causing the
whole of the body that was punctured to gather into minute pustules,
which were continually growing and bursting. My clothes, especially
inside my trousers, were a perfect mass of prickly points.

My great hope and consolation now was that I might soon meet the
relief party. But where was the relief party? Echo could only
answer--where? About the 29th I had emptied the keg, and was still
over twenty miles from the Circus. Ah! who can imagine what twenty
miles means in such a case? But in this April's ivory moonlight I
plodded on, desolate indeed, but all undaunted, on this lone,
unhallowed shore. At last I reached the Circus, just at the dawn of
day. Oh, how I drank! how I reeled! how hungry I was! how thankful I
was that I had so far at least escaped from the jaws of that howling
wilderness, for I was once more upon the range, though still twenty
miles from home.

There was no sign of the tracks, of any one having been here since I
left it. The water was all but gone. The solitary eagle still was
there. I wondered what could have become of Gibson; he certainly had
never come here, and how could he reach the fort without doing so?

I was in such a miserable state of mind and body, that I refrained
from more vexatious speculations as to what had delayed him: I stayed
here, drinking and drinking, until about ten a.m., when I crawled away
over the stones down from the water. I was very footsore, and could
only go at a snail's pace. Just as I got clear of the bank of the
creek, I heard a faint squeak, and looking about I saw, and
immediately caught, a small dying wallaby, whose marsupial mother had
evidently thrown it from her pouch. It only weighed about two ounces,
and was scarcely furnished yet with fur. The instant I saw it, like an
eagle I pounced upon it and ate it, living, raw, dying--fur, skin,
bones, skull, and all. The delicious taste of that creature I shall
never forget. I only wished I had its mother and father to serve in
the same way. I had become so weak that by late at night, I had only
accomplished eleven miles, and I lay down about five miles from the
Gorge of Tarns, again choking for water. While lying down here, I
thought I heard the sound of the foot-falls of a galloping horse going
campwards, and vague ideas of Gibson on the Fair Maid--or she without
him--entered my head. I stood up, and listened, but the sound had died
away upon the midnight air. On the 1st of May, as I afterwards found,
at one o'clock in the morning, I was walking again, and reached the
Gorge of Tarns long before daylight, and could again indulge in as
much water as I desired; but it was exhaustion I suffered from, and I
could hardly move.

My reader may imagine with what intense feelings of relief I stepped
over the little bridge across the water, staggered into the camp at
daylight, and woke Mr. Tietkens, who stared at me as though I had been
one, new risen from the dead. I asked him had he seen Gibson, and to
give me some food. I was of course prepared to hear that Gibson had
never reached the camp; indeed I could see but two people in their
blankets the moment I entered the fort, and by that I knew he could
not be there. None of the horses had come back, and it appeared that I
was the only one of six living creatures--two men and four
horses--that had returned, or were now ever likely to return, from
that desert, for it was now, as I found, nine days since I last saw

Mr. Tietkens told me he had been in a great state of anxiety during my
absence, and had only returned an hour or two before from the Circus.
This accounted for the sounds I heard. He said he had planted some
smoked horsesticks, and marked a tree. This was a few hours after I
had left it in the morning. He said he saw my foot-marks, but could
not conclude that I could be on foot alone, and he thought the tracks
must be older than they looked. Any how, we had missed meeting one
another somewhere on the range. We were both equally horrified at
Gibson's mischance. When we woke Jimmy up he was delighted to see me,
but when told about Gibson, he said something about he knowed he
worn't no good in the bush, but as long as I had returned, etc., etc.
I told them both just what had occurred out there; how Gibson and I
had parted company, and we could only conclude that he must be dead,
or he would long before have returned. The mare certainly would have
carried him to the Circus, and then he must have reached the depot;
but it was evident that he had gone wrong, had lost himself, and must
now be dead. I was too much exhausted and too prostrate to move from
the camp to search for him to-day, but determined to start to-morrow.
Mr. Tietkens got everything ready, while I remained in a state of
semi-stupor. I was cramped with pains in all my joints, pains in the
stomach, and violent headaches, the natural result of having a
long-empty stomach suddenly filled. Gibson's loss and my struggles
formed the topic of conversation for most of the day, and it naturally
shed a gloom over our spirits. Here we were, isolated from
civilisation, out of humanity's reach, hundreds of miles away from our
fellow creatures, and one of our small party had gone from us. It was
impossible for him to be still in existence in that fearful desert, as
no man would or could stay there alive: he must be dead, or he would
have returned as I did, only much sooner, for the mare he had, would
carry him as far in a day as I could walk in a week in this country.

The days had not lately been excessively hot, Mr. Tietkens said 96 to
98 degrees had been the average, but to-day it was only 90 degrees.
This afternoon it was very cloudy, and threatened to rain. I was now,
however, in hopes that none would fall. That evil spirit of this
scene--Mount Destruction--frowned upon us, and now that Gibson was
dead, exploration was ended; we had but to try to find his remains,
and any little trifling shower that fell would make it all the more
difficult to trace him, while a thorough downpour would obliterate the
tracks of our lost companion, entirely from the surface of the sandy
waste into which he had so unfortunately strayed. Before daylight on
the 2nd we were awoke by the sprinkling of a light shower of rain,
which was of not the slightest use; but it continued so long, making
everything wet and clammy, that I felt sure we should have some
trouble in following Gibson's tracks. The rain ceased about seven
o'clock. Mr. Tietkens and Jimmy got all the things we required, and
the horses. I was so weak I could do nothing. We took three
pack-horses to carry water, and two riding-horses, Blackie and Diaway,
to ride, with Widge, Fromby, and Hippy. Though Mr. Tietkens and Jimmy
had not been attacked during my absence, the natives were always
prowling about, and I did not like the idea of leaving Jimmy alone;
but as he said he was willing to remain, we left him. I had to be
literally put on to my horse Blackie, and we rode away. Not to worry
my reader more than I can help, I may say we had to return to the
Kegs, to get the bags left there, and some indispensable things; also
Gibson's saddle, which he left nine or ten miles beyond the Kegs in a
tree. Going all that distance to get these things, and returning to
where Gibson's tracks branched off, we had to travel 115 miles, which
made it the third night the horses had been out. We gave them some of
the water we carried each night, and our supply was now nearly all
gone. It was on the 6th May when we got back to where Gibson had left
the right line. We fortunately had fine, cool weather. As long as
Gibson remained upon the other horse-tracks, following them, though
not very easy, was practicable enough; but the unfortunate man had
left them, and gone away in a far more southerly direction, having the
most difficult sandhills now to cross at right angles. He had burnt a
patch of spinifex, where he left the other horse-tracks, and must have
been under the delusion that they were running north, and that the
main line of tracks must be on his right, instead of his left hand,
and whether he made any mistake or not in steering by the compass, it
is impossible to say, but instead of going east as he should, he
actually went south, or very near it. In consequence of small
reptiles, such as lizards, always scratching over all horse tracks in
this region during the night, and also the slight rain we had the
other morning, combined with wind, the shifting nature of the sandy
soil, and the thick and bushy spinifex, we could make but poor headway
in following the single track, and it was only by one of us walking
while the other brought on the horses, that we could keep the track at
all. Although we did not halt during the whole day, we had not been
able to track him by night more than thirteen miles. Up to this point
there was evidently no diminution of the powers of the animal he
bestrode. We camped upon the tracks the fourth night without water, it
being impossible to follow in the moonlight. We gave our horses all
our remaining stock of water.

We began to see that our chance of finding the remains of our lost
companion was very slight. I was sorry to think that the unfortunate
man's last sensible moments must have been embittered by the thought
that, as he had lost himself in the capacity of a messenger for my
relief, I too must necessarily fall a victim to his mishap.

I called this terrible region that lies between the Rawlinson Range
and the next permanent water that may eventually be found to the west,
Gibson's Desert, after this first white victim to its horrors.

Gibson, having had my horse, rode away in my saddle with my field
glasses attached; but everything was gone--man and horse alike
swallowed in this remorseless desert. The weather was cool at night,
even cold, for which I was most thankful, or we could not have
remained so long away from water. We consulted together, and could
only agree that unless we came across Gibson's remains by mid-day, we
must of necessity retreat, otherwise it would be at the loss of fresh
lives, human and equine, for as he was mounted on so excellent an
animal as the Fair Maid, on account of whose excellence I had chosen
her to ride, it seemed quite evident that this noble creature had
carried him only too well, and had been literally ridden to death,
having carried her rider too far from water ever to return, even if he
had known where it lay. What actual distance she had carried him, of
course it was impossible to say; going so persistently in the wrong
direction, he was simply hastening on to perish. I felt more at ease
walking along the track than riding. We could only go slowly, mile
after mile, rising sand-ridge after sand-ridge, until twelve o'clock,
not having been able to trace him more than seven or eight miles since
morning. We could not reach the Circus by night, for we were nearly
fifty miles from it, and in all probability we should get no water
there when we returned. We had to abandon any further attempt. The
mare had carried him God knows where, and we had to desist from our
melancholy and unsuccessful search. Ah! who can tell his place of
rest, far in the mulga's shade? or where his drooping courser, bending
low, all feebly foaming fell? I may here remark, that when we
relinquished the search, Gibson's tracks were going in the direction
of, though not straight to, the dry ridges that Jimmy and I visited in
February. These were now in sight, and no doubt Gibson imagined they
were the Rawlinson Range, and he probably ended his life amongst them.
It was impossible for us to go there now; I had difficulty enough to
get away from them when I purposely visited them. We now made a
straight line for the western end of the Rawlinson, and continued
travelling until nearly morning, and did not stop till the edge of
Lake Christopher was reached. This was the fifth night from water, and
the horses were only just able to crawl, and we camped about ten miles
from the Circus, we hoped to get water for them there. During our
night march, before reaching the lake--that is, owing to the horses we
were driving running along them, away from our line--we crossed and
saw the tracks of the two loose horses, Badger and Darkie; they were
making too southerly ever to reach the Rawlinson. Where these two
unfortunate brutes wandered to and died can never be known, for it
would cost the lives of men simply to ascertain.

On reaching the Circus next morning, the 8th, there was only mud and
slime, and we had to go so slowly on, until we reached the Gorge of
Tarns very late, reaching the depot still later. I was almost more
exhausted now than when I walked into it last. Jimmy was all right
with the little dog, and heartily glad at our return, as he thought it
was the end of our troubles. Jimmy was but young, and to be left alone
in such a lonely spot, with the constant dread of hostile attacks from
the natives, would not be pleasant for any one. Our stock of poor old
Terrible Billy was all but gone, and it was necessary to kill another
horse. Mr. Tietkens and Jimmy had partially erected another
smoke-house, and to-morrow we must work at it again. The affairs of
the dead must give place to those of the living. I could not endure
the thought of leaving Gibson's last resting-place unknown, although
Bunyan says, "Wail not for the dead, for they have now become the
companions of the immortals." As I have said, my mind could not rest
easy without making another attempt to discover Gibson; but now that
the Circus water was gone, it would be useless to go from here without
some other water between, for where we left his tracks was seventy
miles away, and by the time we could get back to them it would be time
to return. In the early part of the day we got sticks and logs, and
erected a portion of the smoke-house, while Jimmy got the horses. I
then determined to go with Mr. Tietkens to where he and Gibson had
found a rock-hole, which they said was unapproachable. I was
determined to see whether it could be used, so we delayed killing
another horse until our return, and in consequence we had to draw upon
our small stock of flour. In the afternoon we took five more horses,
intending to load them with water at the hole if possible; but I found
it utterly useless. I called the most western hill of this range Mount
Forrest, and the most western watercourse Forrest's Creek.


When we arrived again at the fort, on Monday, I knew something had
happened, for Jimmy was most profuse in his delight at seeing us
again. It appeared that while we were preparing to start on Saturday,
a whole army of natives were hidden behind the rocks, immediately
above the camp, waiting and watching until we departed, and no sooner
were we well out of sight and sound, than they began an attack upon
poor Jim. According to him, it was only by the continued use of rifle
bullets, of which, fortunately, I had a good supply--and, goodness
knows, the ground in and around the fort was strewn with enough
discharged cartridges--that he could keep them at bay at all. If he
had killed ten per cent, for all the cartridges he fired away, I
should think he would have destroyed the whole tribe; but he appeared
to have been too flurried to have hit many of them. They threw several
spears and great quantities of stones down from the rocks; it was
fortunate he had a palisade to get inside of. Towards night he seems
to have driven them off, and he and the little dog watched all night.
It must indeed have been something terrible that would keep Jimmy
awake all night. Before daylight on Sunday the natives came to attack
him again; he had probably improved in his aim by his previous day's
practice, for at length he was able to drive them away screeching and
yelling, the wounded being carried in the arms of the others. One
fellow, Jimmy said, came rushing up to give him his quietus, and began
dancing about the camp and pulling over all the things, when Jimmy
suddenly caught up a shot gun loaded with heavy long-shot cartridges,
of which I had about a dozen left for defence, and before the fellow
could get away, he received the full charge in his body. Jimmy said he
bounded up in the air, held up his arms, shrieked, and screamed, but
finally ran off with all the others, and they had not troubled him
since. I gave the lad great praise for his action. He had had a most
fortunate escape from most probably a cruel death, if indeed these
animals would not have actually eaten him.

We finished the smoke-house this afternoon, and, having secured the
new victim we were going to slay, tied him up all night. This time it
was Tommy. I had brought him originally from Victoria, and he had been
out on my first expedition. He was now very old and very poor, two
coincidences that can only be thoroughly comprehended by the
antiquated of the human race; and for my part I would rather be killed
and eaten by savages, than experience such calamities at an advanced
period of life. Tommy did not promise much oil. I shot him early, and
we got him into the smoke-house with the exception of such portions as
we kept fresh, by the afternoon. We had to boil every bone in his body
to get sufficient oil to fry steaks with, and the only way to get
one's teeth through the latter was to pound them well before cooking.
I wish I had a sausage machine. The thermometer to-day only 78
degrees. Had Gibson not been lost I should certainly have pushed out
west again and again. To say I was sorry to abandon such a work in
such a region, though true, may seem absurd, but it must be remembered
I was pitted, or had pitted myself, against Nature, and a second time
I was conquered. The expedition had failed in its attempt to reach the
west, but still it had done something. It would at all events leave a
record. Our stores and clothes were gone, we had nothing but
horseflesh to eat, and it is scarcely to be wondered at if neither Mr.
Tietkens nor Jimmy could receive my intimation of my intention to
retreat otherwise than with pleasure, though both were anxious, as I
was, that our efforts should be successful. In our present
circumstances, however, nothing more could be done. In vain the strong
will and the endeavour, which for ever wrestled with the tides of

We set to work to shoe some of the horses. When Tommy is smoked we
shall depart. He proved to have more flesh on his bones than I
anticipated, and he may last us for a month. The next few days got hot
and sultry, and rain again threatened. If we could only get a good
fall, out to the west we would go again without a further thought; for
if heavy rain fell we would surely find some receptacle at the Alfred
and Marie Range to help us on? But no, the rain would not come. Every
drop in this singular region seems meted and counted out, yet there
are the marks of heavy floods on all the watercourses. The question of
when did the floods occur, which caused these marks, and when, oh
when, will such phenomena occur again, is always recurring to me. The
climate of this region too seems most extraordinary; for both last
night and the night before we could all lie on our blankets without
requiring a rag to cover us, while a month ago it was so cold at night
that we actually wanted fires. I never knew the nights so warm in May
in any other parts I have visited, and I cannot determine whether this
is a peculiarity of the region, or whether the present is an unusual
season throughout this half of the continent. With the exception of a
few showers which fell in January, not a drop of rain to leave water
has fallen since I left the telegraph line.

I cannot leave this singular spot without a few remarks on its
peculiarities and appearance, for its waters are undoubtedly
permanent, and may be useful to future travellers. In the first place
Fort McKellar bears 12 degrees east of south from the highest ridge of
Mount Destruction, in the Carnarvon Range; that mountain, however, is
partially hidden by the intervening low hills where Mr. Tietkens's
riding-horse Bluey died. In consequence I called it Bluey's Range.
This depot is amongst a heavy clump of fine eucalypts, which are only
thick for about a quarter of a mile. From beneath this clump a fine
strong spring of the purest water flows, and just opposite our fort is
a little basin with a stony bottom, which we had to bridge over to
reach the western bank. The grazing capabilities of the country are
very poor, and the horses only existed here since leaving the pass. On
the 20th it was a month since Gibson and I departed for the west. This
morning three natives came up near the camp, but as they or their
tribe had so lately attacked it, I had no very loving feelings for
them, although we had a peaceable interview. The only information I
could glean from them was that their word for travelling, or going, or
coming, was "Peterman". They pointed to Mount Destruction, and
intimated that they were aware that we had "Petermaned" there, that we
had "Petermaned" both from the east and to the west. Everything with
them was "Peterman". It is singular how identical the word is in sound
with the name of the late Dr. Petermann, the geographer. In looking
over Gibson's few effects, Mr. Tietkens and I found, in an old
pocketbook, a drinking song and a certificate of his marriage: he had
never told us anything about this.


Depart for civilisation.
The springs at the pass.
Farewell to Sladen Water.
The Schwerin Mural Crescent.
The return route.
Recross the boundary line.
Natives and their smokes.
A canine telegram.
New features.
The Sugar-loaf.
Mount Olga once more.
Ayers' Rock.
Cold weather.
A flat-topped hill.
Abandon a horse.
A desert region.
A strange feature.
Lake Amadeus again.
A new smoke-house.
Another smoked horse.
The glue-pot.
An invention.
Friendly natives.
A fair and fertile tract.
The Finke.
A white man.
A sumptuous repast.
Sale of horses and gear.
The Charlotte.
The Peake.
In the mail.
Hear of Dick's death.
In Adelaide.
Concluding remarks.

On the afternoon of Thursday, 21st May, we began our retreat, and
finally left Fort McKellar, where my hopes had been as high as my
defeat was signal. On arriving at the pass we camped close to the
beautiful fresh-water springs, where both Mr. Tietkens and Gibson, had
planted a patch of splendid soil, Gibson having done the same at Fort
McKellar with all kinds of seeds; but the only thing that came up well
here was maize. That looked splendid, and had grown nearly three feet
high. The weather was now delightful, and although in full retreat,
had there been no gloom upon our feelings, had we had any good food to
eat, with such fine horses as Banks, and Diaway, W.A., Trew, Blackie,
etc. to ride, and a line of well-watered country before us for
hundreds of miles, we might have considered our return a pleasure
trip; but gloom covered our retreat, and we travelled along almost in
silence. The pass was a place I greatly liked, and it was free from
ants. There was a long line of fine eucalyptus timber and an extensive
piece of ground covered with rushes, which made it look very pretty;
altogether it was a most desirable spot for an explorer's camp, and an
excellent place for the horses, as they soon got fat here. It is
impossible that I should ever forget Sladen Water or the Pass of the
Abencerrages: "Methinks I am as well in this valley as I have been
anywhere else in all our journey; the place methinks suits with my
spirit. I love to be in such places, where there is no rattling with
coaches, nor rumbling with wheels. Methinks here one may, without much
molestation, be thinking what he is, and whence he came; what he has
done, and to what the king has called him" (Bunyan). On the Queen's
birthday we bade it a last farewell, and departed for the east and
civilisation, once more. We now had the route that Mr. Tietkens and I
had explored in March--that is to say, passing and getting water at
all the following places:--Gill's Pinnacle, the Ruined Rampart,
Louisa's Creek, and the Chirnside. The country, as I have said before,
was excellent and good for travelling over. The crescent-shaped and
wall-like range running from the Weld Pass to Gill's Pinnacle, and
beyond it, I named the Schwerin Mural Crescent; and a pass through it
I named Vladimar Pass, in honour of Prince Vladimar, son of the
Emperor of Russia, married to the Princess of Schwerin. When we
reached the place where we first surprised the natives hunting, in
March, we made a more northerly detour, as our former line had been
through and over very rough hills, and in so doing we found on the 1st
of June another splendid watering-place, where several creeks joined
and ran down through a rocky defile, or glen, to the north. There was
plenty of both rock and sand water here, and it was a very pretty and
excellent little place. I called it Winter's* Glen, and the main creek
of the three in which it lies, Irving Creek. This water may easily be
found by a future traveller, from its bearing from a high,
long-pointed hill abruptly ending to the west, which I named Mount
Phillips. This is a very conspicuous mount in this region, being, like
many of the others named on this line, detached to allow watercourses
to pass northwards, and yet forming a part of the long northern wall,
of which the Petermann Range is formed. This mount can be distinctly
seen from Mount Olga, although it is seventy miles away, and from
whence it bears 4 degrees north of west. The water gorge at Winter's
Glen bears west from the highest point of Mount Phillips, and four
miles away. We were now again in the territories of South Australia,
having bid farewell to her sister state, and turned our backs upon
that peculiar province of the sun, the last of austral lands he shines
upon. We next paid a visit to Glen Robertson, of 15th March, as it was
a convenient place from which to make a straight line to the
Sugar-loaf. To reach it we had to make a circuitous line, under the
foot of the farthest east hill, where, it will be remembered, we had
been attacked during dinner-time. We reached the glen early. There was
yet another detached hill in the northern line, which is the most
eastern of the Petermann Range. I named it Mount McCulloch. It can
also easily be distinguished from Mount Olga. From Glen Robertson
Mount McCulloch bore 3 degrees east of north. We rested here a day,
during which several natives made their appearance and lit signal
fires for others. There is a great difference between signal and
hunting fires; we were perfectly acquainted with both, as my reader
may imagine. One aboriginal fiend, of the Homo sapiens genus, while we
were sitting down sewing bags as usual, sneaked so close upon us, down
the rocks behind the camp, that he could easily have touched or
tomahawked--if he had one--either of us, before he was discovered. My
little dog was sometimes too lazy to obey, when a little distance off,
the command to sit, or stand up; in that case I used to send him a
telegram, as I called it--that is to say, throw a little stone at him,
and up he would sit immediately. This sneak of a native was having a
fine game with us. Cocky was lying down near Mr. Tietkens, when a
stone came quietly and roused him, causing him to sit up. Mr. Tietkens
patted him, and he lay down again. Immediately after another stone
came, and up sat Cocky. This aroused Mr. Tietkens's curiosity, as he
didn't hear me speak to the dog, and he said, "Did you send Cocky a
telegram?" I said, "No." "Well then," said he, "somebody did twice:
did you, Jimmy?" "No." "Oh!" I exclaimed, "it's those blacks!" We
jumped up and looked at the low rocks behind us, where we saw about
half-a-dozen sidling slowly away behind them. Jimmy ran on top, but
they had all mysteriously disappeared. We kept a sharp look out after
this, and fired a rifle off two or three times, when we heard some
groans and yells in front of us up the creek gorge.

Having got some rock water at the Sugar-loaf or Stevenson's Peak in
coming out, we went there again. On the road, at nine miles, we
crossed another large wide creek running north. I called it the
Armstrong*; there was no water where we crossed it. At twenty miles I
found another fine little glen, with a large rock-hole, and water in
the sand of the creek-bed. I called this Wyselaski's* Glen, and the
creek the Hopkins. It was a very fine and pretty spot, and the grass
excellent. On reaching the Peak or Sugar-loaf, without troubling the
old rocky shelf, so difficult for horses to approach, and where there
was very little water, we found another spot, a kind of native well,
half a mile west of the gorge, and over a rise. We pushed on now for
Mount Olga, and camped in casuarina and triodia sandhills without
water. The night of the 5th June was very cold and windy; my only
remaining thermometer is not graduated below 36 degrees. The mercury
was down in the bulb this morning. Two horses straying delayed us, and
it was quite late at night when Mount Olga was reached. I was very
much pleased to see the little purling brook gurgling along its rocky
bed, and all the little basins full. The water, as when I last saw it,
ended where the solid rock fell off. The country all around was
excessively dry, and the grass withered, except in the channel of the
creek, where there was some a trifle green. From here I had a desire
to penetrate straight east to the Finke, as a considerable distance
upon that line was yet quite unknown. One of our horses, Formby, was
unwell, and very troublesome to drive. We are nearly at the end of our
stock of Tommy, and Formby is a candidate for the smoke-house that
will evidently be elected, though we have yet enough Tommy for another
week. While here, I rode round northward to inspect that side of this
singular and utterly unclimbable mountain. Our camp was at the south
face, under a mound which lay up against the highest mound of the
whole. On the west side I found another running spring, with some much
larger rock-basins than at our camp. Of course the water ceased
running where the rock ended. Round on the north side I found a still
stronger spring, in a larger channel. I rode completely round the mass
of this wonderful feature; its extraordinary appearance will never be
out of my remembrance. It is no doubt of volcanic origin, belched out
of the bowels, and on to the surface, of the earth, by the sulphurous
upheavings of subterraneous and subaqueous fires, and cooled and
solidified into monstrous masses by the gelid currents of the deepmost
waves of the most ancient of former oceans. As I before remarked, it
is composed of mixed and rounded stones, formed into rounded shapes,
but some upon the eastern side are turreted, and some almost pillars,
except that their thickness is rather out of proportion to their
height. The highest point of the whole, as given before, is 1500 feet
above the ground, while it is 2800 feet above the sea-level. Could I
be buried at Mount Olga, I should certainly borrow Sir Christopher
Wren's epitaph, Circumspice si monumentum requiris. To the eastward
from here, as mentioned in my first expedition, and not very far off,
lay another strange and singular-looking mound, similar perhaps to
this. Beyond that, and still further to the east, and a very long way
off, was another mount or hill or range, but very indistinct from

On the 9th we went away to the near bare-looking mountain to the east;
it was twenty miles. We found a very fine deep pool of water lying in
sand under the abrupt and rocky face of the mount upon its southern
side. There was also a fine, deep, shady, and roomy cave here,
ornamented in the usual aboriginal fashion. There were two marks upon
the walls, three or four feet long, in parallel lines with spots
between them.

Mr. Gosse had been here from the Gill's Range of my former expedition,
and must have crossed the extremity of Lake Amadeus. He named this
Ayers' Rock. Its appearance and outline is most imposing, for it is
simply a mammoth monolith that rises out of the sandy desert soil
around, and stands with a perpendicular and totally inaccessible face
at all points, except one slope near the north-west end, and that at
least is but a precarious climbing ground to a height of more than
1100 feet. Down its furrowed and corrugated sides the trickling of
water for untold ages has descended in times of rain, and for long
periods after, until the drainage ceased, into sandy basins at its
feet. The dimensions of this vast slab are over two miles long, over
one mile through, and nearly a quarter of a mile high. The great
difference between it and Mount Olga is in the rock formation, for
this is one solid granite stone, and is part and parcel of the
original rock, which, having been formed after its state of fusion in
the beginning, has there remained, while the aged Mount Olga has been
thrown up subsequently from below. Mount Olga is the more wonderful
and grotesque; Mount Ayers the more ancient and sublime. There is
permanent water here, but, unlike the Mount Olga springs, it lies all
in standing pools. There is excellent grazing ground around this rock,
though now the grass is very dry. It might almost be said of this, as
of the Pyramids or the Sphinx, round the decay of that colossal rock,
boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away. This
certainly was a fine place for a camp. The water was icy cold; a
plunge into its sunless deeps was a frigid tonic that, further west in
the summer heats, would have been almost paradisiacal, while now it
was almost a penalty. The hill or range further east seems farther
away now than it did from Mount Olga. It is flat on the summit, and no
doubt is the same high and flat-topped mount I saw from the Sentinel
in August last. We are encamped in the roomy cave, for we find it much
warmer than in the outer atmosphere, warmth being as great a
consideration now, as shade had formerly been.

We started for the flat-topped hill on the 11th of June. The country
was all extremely heavy sandhills, with casuarina and triodia; we had
to encamp among them at twenty-three miles, without water. The next
morning Formby knocked up, and lay down, and we had to leave him in
the scrub. To-day we got over thirty miles, the hill being yet seven
or eight miles off. It looks most repulsive, so far as any likelihoods
of obtaining water is concerned. The region was a perfect desert,
worse for travelling, indeed, than Gibson's Desert itself. Leaving
Jimmy with the horses, Mr. Tietkens and I rode over to the mount, and
reached it in seven miles. At a mile and a half from it we came to an
outer escarpment of rocks; but between that and the mount more
sandhills and thick scrub exist. We rode all round this strange
feature; it was many hundreds of feet high, and for half its height
its sides sloped; the crown rested upon a perpendicular wall. It was
almost circular, and perfectly flat upon the top, apparently having
the same kind of vegetation and timber upon its summit as that upon
the ground below. I don't know that it is accessible; it seemed not; I
saw no place, and did not attempt to ascend it.

To the north, and about fifteen miles away, the not yet ended Amadeus
Lake was visible. To the east timbered ridges bounded the view. There
were a few dry clay-pans here, but no water. We were sixty miles from
the rock, and to all appearance we might have to go sixty, or a
hundred, or more miles before we should reach water. The only water I
knew on this line of latitude was at the Finke itself, nearly 200
miles away.

We must return to our Rock of Ages, for we must smoke another horse,
and we have no water to push any farther here. We returned to Jimmy
and the horses, and pushed back for the rock as fast as we could. When
we reached the spot where we had left Formby he had wandered away. We
went some distance on his tracks, but could not delay for a further
search. No doubt he had lain down and died not far off. I was sorry
now I had not smoked him before we started, though he was scarcely fit
even for explorers' food. We got back to the rock on the 15th, very
late at night, hungry and thirsty. The next day we worked at a new
smoke-house, and had to shift the camp to it, so as to be near, to
keep a perpetual cloud rising, till the meat is safe. The smoke-house
is formed of four main stakes stuck into the ground and coming nearly
together at the top, with cross sticks all the way down, and covered
over with tarpaulins, so that no smoke can escape except through the
top. The meat is cut into thin strips, and becomes perfectly permeated
with smoke. So soon as all was ready, down went poor Hollow Back. He
was in what is called good working condition, but he had not a vestige
of fat about him. The only adipose matter we could obtain from him was
by boiling his bones, and the small quantity of oil thus obtained
would only fry a few meals of steaks. When that was done we had to fry
or parboil them in water. Our favourite method of cooking the
horseflesh after the fresh meat was eaten, was by first boiling and
then pounding with the axe, tomahawk head, and shoeing hammer, then
cutting it into small pieces, wetting the mass, and binding it with a
pannikin of flour, putting it into the coals in the frying-pan, and
covering the whole with hot ashes. But the flour would not last, and
those delicious horse-dampers, though now but things of the past, were
by no means relegated to the limbo of forgotten things. The boiled-up
bones, hoofs, shanks, skull, etc., of each horse, though they failed
to produce a sufficient quantity of oil to please us, yet in the cool
of the night resolved themselves into a consistent jelly that stank
like rotten glue, and at breakfast at least, when this disgusting
stuff was in a measure coagulated, we would request one another with
the greatest politeness to pass the glue-pot. Had it not been that I
was an inventor of transcendent genius, even this last luxury would
have been debarred us. We had been absent from civilisation, so long,
that our tin billies, the only boiling utensils we had, got completely
worn or burnt out at the bottoms, and as the boilings for glue and oil
must still go on, what were we to do with billies with no bottoms?
Although as an inventor I can allow no one to depreciate my genius, I
will admit there was but one thing that could be done, and those muffs
Tietkens and Jimmy actually advised me to do what I had invented,
which was simply--all great inventions are simple--to cover the
bottoms with canvas, and embed the billies half-way up their sides in
cold ashes, and boil from the top instead of the bottom, which of
course we did, and these were our glue- and flesh-pots. The tongue,
brains, kidneys, and other titbits of course were eaten first.

On the 19th some natives began to yell near the camp, but three only
made their appearance. They were not only the least offensive and most
civil we had met on any of our travels, but they were almost endearing
in their welcome to us. We gave them some of the bones and odd pieces
of horse-meat, which seemed to give them great satisfaction, and they
ate some pieces raw. They were in undress uniform, and "free as Nature
first made man, ere the vile laws of servitude began, when, wild in
the woods, the noble savage ran." They were rather good, though
extremely wild-looking young men. One of them had splendid long black
curls waving in the wind, hanging down nearly to his middle; the other
two had chignons. They remained with us only about three hours. The
day was windy, sand-dusty, and disagreeable. One blast of wind blew my
last thermometer, which was hanging on a sapling, so violently to the
ground that it broke.

Mr. Tietkens had been using a small pair of bright steel plyers. When
the endearing natives were gone it was discovered that the plyers had
departed also; it was only Christian charity to hope that they had NOT
gone together. It was evident that Mr. Gosse must have crossed an
eastern part of Lake Amadeus to get here from Gill's Range, and as he
had a wagon, I thought I would be so far beholden to him as to make
use of his crossing-place.

We left the Rock on the 23rd, but only going four miles for a start,
we let the horses go back without hobbles to feed for the night. Where
the lake was crossed Mr. Gosse had laid down a broad streak of bushes
and boughs, and we crossed without much difficulty, the crossing-place
being very narrow. Leaving the dray track at the lower end of King's
Creek of my former journey, we struck across for Penny's Creek, four
miles east of it, where the splendid rocky reservoir is, and where
there was delicious herbage for the horses. We had now a fair and
fertile tract to the River Finke, discovered by me previously, getting
water and grass at Stokes's, Bagot's, Trickett's, and Petermann's
Creeks; fish and water at Middleton's and Rogers's Pass and Ponds.
Thence down the Palmer by Briscoe's Pass, and on to the junction of
the Finke, where there is a fine large water-hole at the junction.

On the 10th of July travelling down the Finke near a place called
Crown Point on the telegraph line, we saw a white man riding towards
us. He proved to be a Mr. Alfred Frost, the owner of several fine
horse-teams and a contractor to supply loading for the Government to
several telegraph stations farther up the line. I had known him
before; he was most kind. He was going ahead to select a camp for his
large party, but upon our telling him of our having nothing but
horse-flesh, he immediately returned with us, and we met the advancing
teams. He called a halt, ordered the horses to be unyoked, and we were
soon laughing and shaking hands with new-found friends. Food was the
first order Mr. Frost gave, and while some were unyoking the horses,
some were boiling the tea-billies, while old Frost was extracting a
quart of rum for us from a hogshead. But we did not indulge in more
than a sip or two, as bread and meat was what we cared for most. In
ten minutes the tea was ready; some splendid fat corned beef, and
mustard, and well-cooked damper were put before us, and oh, didn't we
eat! Then pots of jams and tins of butter were put on our plates
whole, and were scooped up with spoons, till human organisms could do
no more. We were actually full--full to repletion. Then we had some
grog. Next we had a sleep, and then at sundown another exquisite meal.
It made our new friends shudder to look at our remaining stock of
Hollow Back, when we emptied it out on a tarpaulin and told them that
was what we had been living on. However, I made them a present of it
for their dogs. Most of the teamsters knew Gibson, and expressed their
sorrow at his mishap; some of them also knew he was married.

The natives up the line had been very aggressive at the telegraph
stations, while we were absent, and all our firearms, etc., were
eagerly purchased, also several horses and gear. Mr. Frost fell in
love with Banks at a glance, and, though I tried not to part with the
horse, he was so anxious to buy him that I could not well refuse,
although I had intended to keep him and West Australian. Trew, one of
the best horses, had been staked early in the journey and his foot was
blemished, otherwise he was a splendid horse. All the best horses were
wanted--Diaway, Blackie, etc., but I kept W.A., Widge, and one or two
more of the best, as we still had several hundreds of miles to go.

When we parted from our friends we only had a few horses left. We
reached the Charlotte Waters about twelve o'clock on July 13th, having
been nearly a year absent from civilisation. Our welcome here by my
friend and namesake, Mr. Christopher Giles, was of the warmest, and he
clothed and fed us like a young father. He had also recovered and kept
my old horse Cocky. The whole of the establishment there, testified
their pleasure at our return. On our arrival at the Peake our
reception by Mr. and Mrs. Blood at the telegraph station was most
gratifying. Mr. John Bagot also supplied us with many necessaries at
his cattle-station. The mail contractor had a light buggy here, and I
obtained a seat and was driven by him as far as the Blinman Copper
Mine, via Beltana, where I heard that my black boy Dick had died of
influenza at a camp of the semi-civilised natives near a hill called
by Eyre, Mount Northwest. From the Blinman I took the regular mail
coach and train nearly 300 miles to Adelaide. Mr. Tietkens and Jimmy
came behind and sold the remaining horses at the Blinman, where they
also took the coach and joined me in Adelaide a week later.

I have now but a few concluding remarks to make; for my second
expedition is at an end, and those of my readers who have followed my
wanderings are perhaps as glad to arrive at the end as I was. I may
truly say that for nearly twelve months I had been the well-wrought
slave not only of the sextant, the compass, and the pen, but of the
shovel, the axe, and the needle also. There had been a continual
strain on brain and muscle. The leader of such an expedition as this
could not stand by and simply give orders for certain work to be
performed; he must join in it, and with the good example of heart and
hand assist and cheer those with whom he was associated. To my friend
and second, Mr. Tietkens, I was under great obligations, for I found
him, as my readers will have seen, always ready and ever willing for
the most arduous and disagreeable of our many undertakings. My
expedition had been unsuccessful in its main object, and my most
sanguine hopes had been destroyed. I knew at starting a great deal was
expected from me, and if I had not fulfilled the hopes of my friends,
I could only console them by the fact that I could not even fulfil my
own. But if it is conceded that I had done my devoir as an Australian
explorer, then I am satisfied. Nothing succeeds like success, but it
is not in the power of man--however he may deserve--to command it.
Many trials and many bitter hours must the explorer of such a region
experience. The life of a man is to be held at no more than a moment's
purchase. The slightest accident or want of judgment may instantly
become the cause of death while engaged in such an enterprise, and it
may be truly said we passed through a baptism worse indeed than that
of fire--the baptism of no water. That I should ever again take the
field is more than I would undertake to say:--

"Yet the charmed spell
Which summons man to high discovery,
Is ever vocal in the outward world;
But those alone may hear it who have hearts,
Responsive to its tone."

I may add that I had discovered a line of waters to Sladen Water and
Fort McKellar, and that at a distance of 150 miles from there lies the
Alfred and Marie Range. At what price that range was sighted I need
not now repeat. It is highly probable that water exists there also.

It was, however, evident to me that it is only with camels there is
much likelihood of a successful and permanently valuable issue in case
of any future attempt. There was only one gentleman in the whole of
Australia who could supply the means of its accomplishment; and to him
the country at large must in future be, as it is at present, indebted
for ultimate discoveries. Of course that gentleman was the Honourable
Sir Thomas Elder. To my kind friend Baron Mueller I am greatly
indebted, and I trust, though unsuccessful, I bring no discredit upon
him for his exertions on my behalf.

The map and journal of my expedition, as per agreement, was handed
over to the South Australian Government, and printed as Parliamentary
Papers; some few anecdotes of things that occurred have since been
added. It was not to be supposed that in a civilised community, and
amongst educated people, that such a record should pass unnoticed. I
received many compliments from men of standing. The truest, perhaps,
was from a gentleman who patted me on the back and said, "Ah, Ernest,
my boy, you should never have come back; you should have sent your
journal home by Tietkens and died out there yourself." His Excellency
Sir George Bowen, the Governor of Victoria, was very kind, and not
only expressed approval of my exertions, but wrote favourable
despatches on my behalf to the Colonial Office. (This was also the
case subsequently with Sir William Robinson, K.C.M.G., the Governor of
Western Australia, after my arrival at Perth.) Sir Graham Berry, the
present Agent-General for the Colony of Victoria, when Premier, showed
his good opinion by doing me the good turn of a temporary appointment,
for which I shall ever feel grateful.

What was generally thought of my work was the cause of subsequent
explorations, as Sir Thomas Elder, the only camel-owner in Australia,
to whom, through Baron von Mueller, I was now introduced, desired me
to take the field again; and it was soon arranged that he would equip
me with camels, and send me in command of a thoroughly efficient
exploring expedition. Upon this occasion I was to traverse, as near as
possible, the country lying under the 29th parallel of latitude, and I
was to force my way through the southern interior to the City of Perth
in Western Australia, by a new and unknown route. But, previous to
beginning the new expedition, Sir Thomas desired me to execute a
commission for a gentleman in England, of a squatting nature, in the
neighbourhood of Fowler's Bay, of Flinders, on the western coast of
South Australia, and near the head of the Great Australian Bight. This
work was done entirely with horses, though I had two camels, or rather
dromedaries--a bull and a cow, which had a young calf. There was no
pack-saddle for the bull, and the cow being very poor, I had not yet
made use of them. After I had completed my surveys near Fowler's Bay,
and visited the remote locality of Eucla Harbour, discovered by
Flinders and mentioned by Eyre in his travels in 1841, at the boundary
of the two colonies of South, and Western Australia, I had to proceed
to Sir Thomas Elder's cattle and sheep station, and camel depot, at
Beltana, to fit out for the new expedition for Perth. Beltana station
lies about 300 miles nearly north from the city of Adelaide, while
Fowler's Bay lies 450 miles about west-north-west from that city; and
though Beltana is only 370 or 380 miles in a straight line across the
country from Fowler's Bay, yet the intervening country being mostly
unknown, and the great salt depression of Lake Torrens lying in the
way, I had to travel 700 miles to reach it. As this was my first
attempt with camels, I shall now give an account of my journey there
with them and three horses. This undertaking was my third expedition,
and will be detailed in the following book.



Leave Fowlers Bay.
Camels and horses.
A great plain.
A black romance.
An oasis.
Old Jimmy.
Cockata blacks.
In concealment.
Flies, ants, and heat.
A line of waters to the east.
Leave depot.
The camels.
Slow progress.
Lose a horse loaded with water.
Tinkle of a bell.
Heavy sand-dunes.
Astray in the wilds.
A native dam.
Inhuman mutilations.
Mowling and Whitegin.
The scrubs.
A conspicuous mountain.
A native family.
March flies.

While at Fowler's Bay I had heard of a native watering-place called
Youldeh, that was known to one or two white people, and I found that
it lay about 130 miles inland, in a north-north-westerly direction; my
object now being to push across to Beltana to the eastwards and
endeavour to find a good travelling route by which I could bring my
projected large camel expedition back to the water at Youldeh, as a
starting depot for the west.

Leaving the bay on Saturday, the 13th of March, 1875, I had a strong
party with me as far as Youldeh. My second in command, Mr. Roberts,
Mr. Thomas Richards, police trooper--who, having previously visited
Youldeh, was going to show me its whereabouts--and Mr. George Murray;
I had with me also another white man, Peter Nicholls, who was my cook,
one old black fellow and two young ones. The old man and one young
fellow went on, one day in advance and led the two camels, the calf
running loose. We all rode horses, and had several pack-horses to
carry our provisions and camp necessaries. The weather was exceedingly
hot, although the previous summer months had been reasonably cool, the
heat having been tempered by southerly sea breezes. Nature now seemed
to intend to concentrate all the usual heat of an Australian summer
into the two remaining months that were left to her. The thermometer
usually stood for several hours of each day at 104, 105, and 106
degrees in the shade.

After leaving Colona, an out sheep station belonging to Fowler's Bay,
lying some thirty-five miles north-west from it, and where Mr. Murray
resided, we traversed a country alternating between belts of scrub and
grassy flats or small plains, until at twenty miles from Colona we
reached the edge of a plain that stretched away to the north, and was
evidently of a very great extent. The soil was loose and yielding, and
of a very poor quality. Although this plain was covered with
vegetation, there was no grass whatever upon it; but a growth of a
kind of broom, two to three feet high, waving in the heated breezes as
far as the eye could reach, which gave it a billowy and extraordinary
appearance. The botanical name of this plant is Eremophila scoparia.

At fifty miles from Colona and eighty-five from the bay, we reached a
salt lagoon, which, though several miles long, and perhaps a mile
wide, Mr. Murray's black boy informed us was the footmark or track of
a monstrous animal or snake, that used to haunt the neighbourhood of
this big plain, and that it had been driven by the Cockata blacks out
of the mountains to the north, the Musgrave Ranges of my last
expedition, and which are over 400 miles from the bay. He added that
the creature had crawled down to the coast, and now lived in the sea.
So here was reliable authority for the existence of a sea serpent. We
had often heard tales from the blacks, when sitting round our camp
fires at night, about this wonderful animal, and whenever any native
spoke about it, it was always in a mysterious undertone. What the name
of this monster was, I cannot now remember; but there were syllables
enough in it to make a word as long as the lagoon itself. The tales
that were told of it, the number of natives it had devoured, how such
and such a black fellow's father had encountered and speared it, and
how it had occasionally created floods all over the country when it
was angry, would have made an excellent novel, which might be produced
under the title of a "Black Romance." When we laughed at, or joked
this young black fellow who now accompanied us, on the absurdity of
his notions, he became very serious, for to him and his
co-religionists it was no laughing matter. Another thing was rather
strange, and that was, how these coast natives should know there were
any mountains to the north of them. I knew it, because I had been
there and found them; but that they should know it was curious, for
they have no intercourse with the tribes of natives in the country to
the north of them; indeed it required a good deal of persuasion to
induce the young blacks who accompanied us to go out to Youldeh; and
if it had not been that an old man called Jimmy had been induced by
Mr. Richards to go with the camels in advance, I am quite sure the
young ones would not have gone at all.

After crossing the salt lagoon or animals' track, and going five miles
farther, about north-north-east, we arrived at some granite rocks
amongst some low hills, which rose up out of the plain, where some
rock water-holes existed, and here we found the two blacks that had
preceded us, encamped with the camels. This pretty little place was
called Pidinga; the eye was charmed with flowering shrubs about the
rocks, and green grass. As the day was very hot, we erected tarpaulins
with sticks, this being the only shade to sit under. There were a few
hundred acres of good country round the rocks; the supply of water was
limited to perhaps a couple of thousand gallons. From Pidinga our
route to Youldeh lay about north-north-west, distant thirty-three
miles. For about twenty-five miles we traversed an entirely open
plain, similar to that just described, and mostly covered with the
waving broom bushes; but now upon our right hand, to the north, and
stretching also to the west, was a dark line of higher ground formed
of sandhills and fringed with low scrub, and timber of various kinds,
such as cypress pines (callitris), black oak (casuarinas) stunted
mallee (eucalyptus), and a kind of acacia called myal. This new
feature, of higher ground, formed the edge of the plain, and is the
southern bank of a vast bed of sandhill country that lies between us
and the Musgrave Ranges nearly 300 miles to the north.

Having reached the northern edge of the plain we had been traversing,
we now entered the bed of sandhills and scrub which lay before us,
and, following the tracks of the two black fellows with the camels, as
there was no road to Youldeh, we came in five miles to a spot where,
without the slightest indication to point out such a thing, except
that we descended into lower ground, there existed a shallow native
well in the sandy ground of a small hollow between the red sandhills,
and this spot the blacks said was Youldeh. The whole region was
glowing with intense heat, and the sand was so hot, that neither the
camels nor the horses could endure to remain standing in the sun, but
so soon as they were unpacked and unsaddled, sought the shade of the
large and numerous leguminous bushes which grew all round the place.
As there were five whites and four blacks, we had plenty of hands to
set about the different tasks which had to be performed. In the first
place we had to dig out the old well; this some volunteered to do,
while others erected an awning with tarpaulins, got firewood, and
otherwise turned the wild and bushy spot into a locality suitable for
a white man's encampment. Water was easily procurable at a depth of
between three and four feet, and all the animals drank as much as they
desired, being watered with canvas buckets; the camels appeared as
though they never would be satisfied.

It was only their parching thirst that induced the horses to remain
anywhere near the camels, and immediately they got sufficient water,
they de-camped, though short-hobbled, at a gallop over the high red
sandhills from whence we had come; my riding-horse, Chester, the worst
of the mob, went nearly mad at the approach of the camels. There was
not a sign of a blade of grass, or anything else that horses could
eat, except a few yellow immortelles of a large coarse description,
and these they did not care very much for. The camels, on the
contrary, could take large and evidently agreeable mouthfuls of the
leaves of the great bushes of the Leguminosae, which abounded. The
conduct of the two kinds of animals was so distinctly different as to
arouse the curiosity of all of us; the camels fed in peaceful content
in the shade of the bushes from which they ate, and never went out of
sight, seeming to take great interest in all we did, and evidently
thoroughly enjoying themselves, while the horses were plunging about
in hobbles over the sandhills, snorting and fretting with fright and
exertion, and neither having or apparently desiring to get anything to
eat. Their sole desire was to get away as far as possible from the
camels. The supply of water here seemed to be unlimited, but the sandy
sides of the well kept falling in; therefore we got some stakes of
mallee, and saplings of the native poplar (Codonocarpus cotinifolius,
of the order of Phytolacceae), and thoroughly slabbed it, at least
sufficiently for our time. This place, as I said before, was
exceedingly hot, lying at the bottom of a hollow amongst the
sandhills, and all we could see from the tops of any of those near us
was a mass of higher, darker, and more forbidding undulations of a
similar kind. These undulations existed to the east, north, and west,
while to the south we could but dimly see the mirage upon the plain we
had recently traversed. The water here was fresh and sweet, and if the
temperature had not been quite so hot, we might have enjoyed our
encampment here; but there was no air, and we seemed to be at the
bottom of a funnel. The old black fellow, Jimmy, whom Mr. Richards had
obtained as a guide to show me some waters in the country to the
eastwards, informed us, through the interpretation of Mr. Murray, that
he knew of only one water in any direction towards the west, and this
he said was a small rock water-hole called Paring.

The following day Mr. Murray and I rode there with old Jimmy, and
found it to be a wretched little hole, lying nearly west-north-west
about fourteen miles away; it contained only a few gallons of water,
which was almost putrid from the number of dead and decaying birds,
rats, lizards, rotten leaves, and sticks that were in it; had it been
full it would have been of no earthly use to me. Old Jimmy was not
accustomed to riding, and got out of his latitude once or twice before
we reached the place. He was, however, proud of finding himself in the
novel position, albeit rather late in life, of riding upon horseback,
and if I remember rightly did not tumble off more than three or four
times during the whole day. Jimmy was a very agreeable old gentleman;
I could not keep up a conversation with him, as I knew so few words of
his language, and he knew only about twenty of mine. It was evident he
was a man of superior abilities to most of his race, and he looked
like a thoroughbred, and had always been known to Mr. Richards as a
proud and honourable old fellow. He was, moreover, the father of a
large family, namely five, which is probably an unprecedented number
amongst the aboriginal tribes of this part of Australia, all of whom
he had left behind, as well as his wife, to oblige me; and many a time
he regretted this before he saw them again, and after; not from any
unkindness on my part, for my readers will see we were the best of
friends the whole time we were together. On this little excursion it
was very amusing to watch old Jimmy on horseback, and to notice the
look of blank amazement on his face when he found himself at fault
amongst the sandhills; the way he excused himself for not going
straight to this little spot was also very ingenuous. In the first
place he said, "Not mine young fellow now; not mine like em pony"--the
name for all horses at Fowler's Bay--"not mine see 'em Paring long
time, only when I am boy." Whereby he intended to imply that some
allowance must be made for his not going perfectly straight to the
place. However, we got there all right, although I found it to be
useless. When asked concerning the country to the north, he declared
it was Cockata; the country to the west was also Cockata, the dreaded
name of Cockata appearing to carry a nameless undefined horror with
it. The term of Cockata blacks is applied by the Fowler's Bay natives
to all other tribes of aboriginals in the country inland from the
coast, and it seems, although when Fowler's Bay country was first
settled by the whites these natives attacked and killed several of the
invaders, they always lived in terror of their enemies to the north,
and any atrocity that was committed by themselves, either cannibalism,
theft, or murder, was always put down to the account of the Cockatas.
Occasionally a mob of these wilder aboriginals would make a descent
upon the quieter coast-blacks, and after a fight would carry off women
and other spoils, such as opossum rugs, spears, shields,
coolamins--vessels of wood or bark, like small canoes, for carrying
water--and they usually killed several of the men of the conquered
race. After remaining at this Paring for about an hour, we remounted
our horses and returned to the camp at Youldeh. The party remained
there for a few days, hoping for a change in the weather, as the heat
was now very great and the country in the neighbourhood of the most
forbidding and formidable nature to penetrate. It consisted of very
high and scrubby red sandhills, and it was altogether so unpleasing a
locality that I abandoned the idea of pushing to the north, to
discover whether any other waters could be found in that direction,
for the present, and postponed the attempt until I should return to
this depot en route for Perth, with the whole of my new
expedition--deciding to make my way now to the eastwards in order to
reach Beltana by a route previously untravelled.

Upon the morning after my return from Paring, all the horses were
away--indeed, as I have said before, there was nothing for them to eat
at this place, and they always rambled as far as they could possibly
go from the camp to get away from the camels, although those more
sensible animals were, so to say, in clover. We had three young black
fellows and old Jimmy, and it was the young ones' duty to look after
and get the horses, while old Jimmy had the easier employment of
taking care of the camels. This morning, two of the young blacks were
sent out very early for the horses, whilst the other and old Jimmy
remained to do anything that might be required at the camp. The
morning was hot and oppressive, we sat as comfortably as we could in
the shade of our awning; by twelve o'clock no signs of black boys or
horses had made their appearance. At one o'clock we had dinner, and
gave old Jimmy and his mate theirs. I noticed that the younger black
left the camp with a bit of a bundle under his shirt and a canvas
water-bag; I and some of the others watched whither he went, and to
our surprise we found that he was taking food and water to the other
two boys, who should have been away after the horses, but were quietly
encamped under a big bush within a quarter of a mile of us and had
never been after the horses at all. Of course we were very indignant,
and were going to punish them with a good thrashing, when one of them
informed us that it was no use our hammering them, for they could not
go for the horses because they were too much afraid of the Cockata
blacks, and unless we sent old Jimmy or a white man they would not go
out of sight of the camp. This showed the state of superstition and
fear in which these people live. Indeed, I believe if the whole
Fowler's Bay tribes were all encamped together in one mob round their
own fires, in their own country, and any one ran into the camp and
shouted "Cockata," it would cause a stampede among them immediately.
It was very annoying to think that the horses had got so many hours'
start away from the camp, and the only thing I could do was to send a
white man, and Jimmy, with these boys to find the absent animals. Mr.
Roberts volunteered, and had to camp away from water, not returning
until late the following day, with only about a third of the mob. The
next day all were found but three--one was a police horse of Mr.
Richards's, which was never seen after, and two colts of mine which
found their way back to, and were eventually recovered at, Fowler's
Bay by Mr. Roberts. While encamped here we found Youldeh to be a
fearful place, the ants, flies, and heat being each intolerable. We
were at the bottom of a sandy funnel, into which the fiery beams of
the sun were poured in burning rays, and the radiation of heat from
the sandy country around made it all the hotter. Not a breath of air
could be had as we lay or sat panting in the shade we had erected with
our tarpaulins. There was no view for more than a hundred yards
anywhere, unless one climbed to the top of a sandhill, and then other
sandhills all round only were to be seen. The position of this place I
found to be in latitude 30 degrees 24' 10" and approximate longitude
131 degrees 46'. On the 23rd of March Mr. Murray, Jimmy, and I, went
to the top of a sandhill overlooking the camp and had a long
confabulation with Jimmy--at least Mr. Murray had, and he interpreted
the old fellow's remarks to me. It appeared that he knew the country,
and some watering-places in it, for some distance to the eastward, and
on making a kind of map on the sand, he put down several marks, which
he called by the following names, namely, Chimpering, Pylebung,
Mowling, Whitegin, and Wynbring; of these he said Pylebung and
Wynbring were the best waters. By his account they all lay due east
from hence, and they appeared to be the most wonderful places in the
world. He said he had not visited any of these places since he was a
little boy with his mother, and it appeared his mother was a widow and
that these places belonged to her country, but that she had
subsequently become the wife of a Fowler's Bay native, who had taken
her and her little Jimmy away out of that part of the country,
therefore he had not been there since. He said that Pylebung was a
water that stood up high, and that Cockata black fellows had made it
with wooden shovels. This account certainly excited my curiosity, as I
had never seen anything which could approximate to Jimmy's

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