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Spinifex and Sand by David W Carnegie

Part 6 out of 6

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Moon. Yungun.
Star. Gigi.
Southern Cross. Wun-num.

* Hunt's Slate Well, near Lake Lefroy, Coolgardie Goldfield, which is
sometimes salt, is called by the natives Murrabi.
** Same as at Empress Spring and throughout desert.
*** In imitation of the bird's cry.



April 20th we left our camp on the lake, steering due East to cut a creek
which enters on the North-East corner; the creek was dry, and the nature
of its shingly bed inclined me to think that it has its rise in
auriferous country. Close by the creek we found a shallow clay-pan, and
as the next day would probably see us in the desert I had every available
water-carrying vessel filled. Tiger worked well, but a friend of his, who
had come with us so far, watched the proceedings with suspicion.
On being questioned as to waters to the South-East, he was most
positive as to their non-existence, and evidently frightened Tiger
so much by his dreadful account of the country that he decided on
returning home--for the next morning both he and his friend had
disappeared. I was very sorry, for he was a smart lad, and now we
were a bit short-handed. Pursuit was of course useless, for he had too
great a start, and would soon be lost amongst his tribesmen. He had
worked so well that I never suspected him of wishing to go. I fear he
will spear Mr. Stretch's cattle after all!

Fully loaded with water, we left the lakes, steering towards Mount Wilson
(Gregory); the heat was great, and the flies worse than we had before

Riding ahead steering was most unpleasant; one hand for the compass, one
for the bridle, left nothing with which to frighten the flies from the
corners of my eyes, which became quite raw in consequence. Certainly
riding is a great improvement on walking, and I prayed that the horses
would long be spared to us. Once through the dense scrub surrounding the
lake, and our old friends sand and spinifex lay before us. Crossing an
open plain, we reached Mount Wilson, from which the lake was plainly
visible, at a greatly lower level. This hill is the highest in a little
broken range of barren sandstone hills, peaks, knobs, and cliffs of all
manner of shapes and sizes. To the eastward stony tablelands can be seen,
running from which I noticed what I took to be a creek.

At this point it is interesting to see what Gregory's impressions were of
the country ahead. This was the furthest point he reached in 1856, having
landed an expedition on the Northern coast and travelled up the Victoria
River on to the head-waters of the Sturt Creek, and down that creek to
its end. He says: "From the summit of the hill (Mount Wilson) nothing was
visible but one unbounded waste of sandy ridges and low, rocky hills,
which lay to the South-East of the hill. All was one impenetrable
desert; . . . the vegetation on this part of the country was reduced to a
few stunted gums, hakea bushes, and Triodia (spinifex), the whole
extremely barren in appearance. . . The remaining portion of the horizon
was one even, straight line: not a hill or break of any kind, and except
the narrow line of the creek, was barren and worthless in the extreme, the
red soil of the level portions of the surface being partially clothed
with Triodia and a few small trees, or rather bushes, rendering the long,
straight ridges of fiery-red, drifting sand more conspicuous."

So Gregory retraced his tracks up the Sturt Creek, and when one remembers
that he had horses, one can only say, "And a good judge too."

Leaving Mount Wilson we steered East and cut the creek that I had seen,
and were glad to find feed near it for both horses and camels. I walked
it up to its head, and found a little rocky pool of water, returning
after dark. Breaden and Warri had been out too, but found nothing. Having
watered the animals, next morning, the 22nd, I steered a course to take
us through a piece of country previously traversed by Warburton, with
Lake White (a dry salt-lake) as our goal, for round it I hoped to find
creeks and clay-pans. I depended on none of Warburton's waters, though he
had some marked on his chart, since I knew that doubts existed as to the
accuracy of his positions, and I preferred to rely upon our own methods
of finding water rather than to waste time in hunting for wells that we
might not find. For the next few days we were crossing spinifex plains
and passing distant hills and tablelands of sandstone. The days were very
hot, but since rising from the hollow of the lake the nights had become
very much cooler. We had come so suddenly into desert country that the
animals gave us great trouble, being unable, poor things, to find any
food. Late starts were the order of the day, camels having wandered miles
in one direction followed by Breaden and Warri, and the horses in another
followed by me.

On the 23rd we found ourselves again amongst the sand ridges, high, red,
and steep; we were now in lat. 20 degrees 30 minutes, and from that date
and point this awful country continued almost without a break, ridge
succeeding ridge with perfect regularity and running, as before, dead
across our route, until we reached lat. 24 degrees 45 minutes on June
2nd--a period of forty one days, during which we travelled 451 miles. Thus
it will be seen that in the far eastern portion of the Colony the ridges
of drift-sand extend over a greater length of country than in the centre;
and consequently our return journey was accomplished with greater
difficulties before us, and with an almost total lack of feed for our
stock--less even than on the first trip but to balance these drawbacks we
had cool nights, lighter equipment, and the advantage of previous
experience--and the incentive of knowing that our rations would not last
out unless we made all speed.

On the 24th we crossed a range of barren hills, which I named the Gordon
Hills, after our friends of Flora Valley. In the neighbourhood Godfrey
picked up a perfectly white egg, somewhat resembling that of an emu,
which lay upon a hummock of spinifex; presumably it had been bleached by
the sun. From the hills to the S.S.W., across high ridges of sand, can be
seen a range apparently of some altitude, distant some twenty-five miles;
this I named the Stretch Range, after our kind host of Denison Downs
Station. From the Gordon Hills we continued on our course for a smoke we
had sighted the day before, and before long picked up two fresh tracks,
which we followed. From some stony rises a large, prominent hill came
into view, as if formed of three great steps of bare rock. This I named
Mount Elphinstone, after my cousin, and towards it we shaped our course,
still on the tracks.

That night we were again forced to camp on a barren spot, and again our
animals wandered far afield. Unless absolutely necessary, I have a great
objection to tying them up at nights, for then they are sure beyond
question of getting nothing to eat; whereas wandering they may find a
patch of herbage or bushes. That night we saw the fire of a native camp
and heard distant screams. In the morning a mob of blacks passed our camp
all unaware of our presence; Breaden and Warri were hunting the camels
and I the horses. As soon as I brought them in we followed and stopped
some of the natives, and they returned with us to camp and presently
decoyed others who were passing.

There was nothing remarkable about these savages except that they were
tall and well-made and fairly friendly. One had the skin disease from
which we had noticed others suffering. An old man, and a young, rather
handsome, buck came with us and went ahead as guides. Their camp had
been, as is the rule, on the top of a sand-ridge--chosen, no doubt, as a
position suitable for watching the approach of others. A four-mile stage
brought us to a nice little oasis--a small area of grass, surrounded by
ti-trees, enclosed by two sand-ridges. In the centre of the grass three
good soaks, in black, sandy soil, yielded sufficient for all our needs at
the expenditure of but little labour. The horses appreciated the change,
and unless we had given them water in instalments would have assuredly
burst themselves. They drank in all sixteen gallons apiece! Seeing that
they had never been in anything but good country all their lives, and
that now we had suddenly come out of it into the howling waste, they
showed satisfactory endurance, having been eighty hours with only six
gallons of water each during that time. What English thoroughbred could
have done this?

The next day Breaden and I rode up to Mount Elphinstone, which we found
to be formed of three great rocky shoulders of sandstone capped with
quartzite, almost bare, and stony on the top, with sheer faces one
hundred feet high on the West side and a gradual slope to the East, where
high sand-ridges run right up to the foot. From the summit a high
tableland [Probably Musgrave Range (Warburton)] and range can be seen to
the North, to the East a bluff-ended tableland, [Probably Philipson Range
(Warburton)] but the horizon from South-East to South-West was a dead

One mile due West of the highest point we found a native well in a sandy
gutter, and about 150 yards from it, to the East, a high wall of bare
rock as regular as if it had been built. This wall, seen edge-on from the
North-West, from which point Breaden sighted it when after the camels,
appears like a chimney-stack.

As the soaks at which we were camped have the appearance of being more
permanent than the usual native well, it may be useful to give directions
for finding them from Mount Elphinstone. Leave hill on bearing 230
degrees, cross one sand-ridge close to hills, then spinifex plain, then
another sand-ridge running East and West, from the crest of which can be
seen three gaps in the next one--steer for most Westerly gap, and seven
miles from the hill the soaks will be found. Having no time for further
investigation, we returned to camp, and to ensure an early start tied the
camels down for the night, since they had been feeding all day. Bluey
again proved to be a vicious brute, and kicked me in the chest, knocking
me down; but the other new camels daily improved in their manners. We had
great trouble in cleaning off from their backs the clay with which they
were smeared, having rolled in some shallow clay-pans near the lakes. It
was most necessary to scrape it off somehow, as otherwise sore backs
would have resulted; and, indeed, Stoddy's sore back started in this way
by the friction of the saddle and the caked mud.

The country ahead looked so bad that I decided to take the two bucks with
us for as long as they knew the waters, so secured the one to the other
by the neck, with plenty of spare chain between. They marched with us
apparently perfectly happy, and even anxious to point out the directions
of various native wells. My object was to make as much Southing as
possible whilst we could; so having two natives and one hundred gallons
of water (of which the horses were given three gallons each nightly), we
steered due South from the soaks, and had a long day of tremendously steep
sand-ridges, up the North side of which the camels climbed with
difficulty. Riding the camels was out of the question, so we took the
horses in turn, Breaden and I steering hour about. Though crossing fresh
tracks and though the bucks were most anxious to follow them, we did not
turn from our course, for we had only left water the day before, and as
our rations were calculated to just, and only just, last out, no time
could be wasted. For the same reason we were travelling longer hours.

Our camp of the 28th was in lat. 21 degrees 4 minutes long. 128 degrees 33
minutes, and ahead of us to the South-West three miles distant was a range
of barren sandstone hills, for which we steered; the old man, though
contradicted by the young one, promising "gilli nappa," or creek water.
However, he fooled us, and after much climbing we reached a small, dry
well in a narrow gorge, quite inaccessible for camels.

It was now the young man's turn, who, seeing that we were not best
pleased with his mate's efforts, by every sort of sign assured us that
water existed in another range to the East. So turning in that direction
over monstrous high ridges, crossing them obliquely, in five miles we cut
a small watercourse, and following it up to its head found ourselves on
the top of a range of barren sandstone hills, over which were dotted
white-stemmed stunted gums--a most desolate place. The travelling was
very trying to the camels, who were continually missing their footing on
loose boulders and stones, in the bed of the creek. Sheer steps in the
rock on either hand precluded us from marching over the hills, excepting
up the watercourse.

From the summit, other similar hills could be seen to the East--hills of
quite a respectable height, all bare and rocky. Numerous small gorges and
glens head from the East watershed; without any hesitation our guides
started down one, and before long we came to a little pool in the rocky
bed. Here we watered our animals and replenished our tanks and bags;
and a nice job we had to make some of the camels approach the pool; on
either side were steep cliffs, and to reach the water numerous cracks
and gaps in the bed-rock had to be crossed, not wide or deep, but
sufficiently so to scare Bluey and some of the others. The open desert
life seems to make camels, and horses too, very nervous when anything
the least unusual has to be faced. The echoes amongst the rocks, and
the rather gloomy gorges, seemed to make them "jumpy"; a stone
rattling down behind them would be sufficient to cause a panic.
Leaving the pool, we followed the gorge until it ran out as a deep,
sandy channel down the valley formed by the horseshoe of the ranges.
The ranges I named the Erica Ranges, after one of my sisters. All
along the banks of the creek splendid green acacia and grass was
growing, and a most inviting-looking plant standing some six feet
high, with greenish-grey stems and leaves, and a flower not unlike
wallflower. Such a place at once suggested camping, and we were
proceeding to unload when Godfrey remarked that this pretty plant was
very like a most deadly Queensland poison plant; he was not sure; I had
never seen it before, nor had Breaden. The risk, however, was too great;
it might be poison; I could see the camels eyeing its fresh charms, and
it grew in such profusion that all would be devouring it in a few
minutes. So we packed up again and moved further on, much to the disgust
of the blacks and the animals, for all were very tired. I collected some
specimens of this plant; if Godfrey had never been in Queensland we
should have been in a tight corner, for the Government botanist, Perth,
says, "The plant in question is very poisonous. It is scientifically
known as GASTROLOBIUM GRANDIFLORUM, occurs throughout the dry, tropical
portion of Australia, and is commonly known as 'Desert poison,'
'Australian poison,' and 'Wallflower poison bush.'"

Near Mount Bannerman, where our camels were poisoned on the upgoing
journey, this plant was not growing. The suspected plants I collected,
but unfortunately the specimens were mislaid or lost. In such country as
this one has one's whole mind and energies concentrated on how best to
cover the ground; and what with well-digging, writing up field-books,
observing, and so forth, one's time is fully occupied; I was therefore
unable to collect more than a few plants worthy of notice, since
they formed feed for camels, or caused their death. My companions
were of course equally occupied. Besides the map I was able to
make of the country, I set great store by my photographs. Of these I took
over two hundred; owing, however, to defective plates, or rather films,
many were failures, and nearly all that could be printed and reproduced
are to be seen in this book.

On the 30th we followed down the creek until it bore too much to the
West, and so far as we could see shortly ran out into the sand. From a
high sandhill the next morning we got an extensive view. To the East, the
main body of a long salt-lake extending as far as the eye can see to the
S.S.E. Bounding the lake on the East is a high sandstone tableland, with
abrupt cliffs facing the lake. Some eight miles to the North-East appears
to be the extreme point of the lake, but of course from a distance it is
impossible to say for certain. Except where the cliffs occur, the lake is
enclosed by high red sandhills, through which it winds its way like a
strip of sparkling white tinsel. Having no desire to court difficulties,
I turned from this smooth-faced but treacherous bog, and, looking West,
spied a fine bold range, a rugged-looking affair with peaks, bluffs,
and pinnacles, suggesting gorges and water. I have no doubt that this
lake is Lake White, of Warburton's, though my position for it is seventeen
miles East of that assigned to it by him. It is in the same latitude,
and agrees with Warburton's description as to the cliffs and sandhills.

After sighting this lake we turned West to the ranges, therefore had two
lakes existed in this latitude we must have crossed the second, which we
did not do. Many things go to prove that Warburton's positions are
incorrect; I think I can show how, by moving his route bodily on the
chart about eighteen miles to the East, a more accurate map will result.
My own experience alone would not be conclusive, except that my work fits
in with that of Forrest, Gregory, and Tietkens, where my route crosses
theirs; but taken in conjunction with others it proves of value. In
crossing the Colony, Warburton failed to connect with Gregory's traverse
at the end of the Sturt as he intended, and on approaching his
destination (the Oakover River) expressed surprise that he had not
reached it a day or two before. Therefore he was not confident of the
accuracy of his reckoning.

Two parties, one led by Mr. Buchanan, a noted bushman, another by Mr.
Smith, set out from the end of the Sturt to cross the desert, made
several unsuccessful attempts to locate some waters of Warburton's,
though no distance away, and returned satisfied that nothing could be
gained by further travelling. Mr. Smith told me that he had located
"Bishop's Dell," but placed it due south of the Salt Sea instead of
S.S.W, as shown by Warburton.

Mr. Wells eventually found Joanna Spring twenty miles East of Warburton's
position. This correction is of greater value than any, since Mr. Wells
is considered one of the best surveyors in the South Australian Service.

A combination of the above experiences shows, I think conclusively, that
Colonel Warburton's route, at least on the West Australian side of the
boundary, should be shifted bodily eighteen or twenty miles to the

Considering the hard trials that Colonel Warburton and his party went
through, there is small wonder that he found great difficulty in keeping
any sort of reckoning.

From the journal of this traveller I take the following description of
the country round the lake: "We found good feed for the camels here, but
the sandhills appear to be increasing in number and size. We have got
amongst the half-dried salt lagoons, so our further progress North-West
is cut off. . . we are quite amongst the salt-lakes, a large one lies to
the West of us, sending out its arms to every point. We must round the
eastern end of them, as camels and salt-bogs don't agree at all. . . We
tried to cross but had to turn back. . . Country very bad, dense
spinifex, high, steep sand-ridges with timber in flats. Any man
attempting to cross this country with horses must perish. . . A strong
easterly wind prevailed, blowing up clouds of sand and ashes from
the burnt ground. Truly this is a desert!"

This was written when I was two and a half years old. The writer little
thought that an infant was growing up who would have no more sense than
to revisit this ghastly region; nor as far as I remember was the infant
thinking much about sand! Dear me! how easy it was to get a drink in
those days--merely by yelling for it--but the strongest lungs in the world
cannot dig out a native well.



Shaping our course from the lake (Lake White) towards the highest point
in the range, which I named Stansmore Range after poor Charlie, we had
the novel and pleasant experience of travelling with, instead of across,
the ridges--if only we could have turned the country round at right
angles, or changed the North point of the compass, how nice it would have
been! As it was, South we must go to get home, and take the ridges as
they came; our Westerly course was only temporary. For twenty-seven
miles we steered W.b.S., keeping along the trough of two ridges the
whole time, seeing nothing on either hand but a high bank of sand covered
with the usual vegetation. The trough was flat at the bottom, and about
150 yards wide. For ten miles we travelled between the same two parallel
ridges, then in front the butt-end of another appeared, as the trough
widened out. Deviating slightly to the South from our former course, we
were again between two ridges, one of which was the same that we had
followed along before. Then, again, in a few miles another ridge would
start, and altering our course again, this time a little to the North,
continued our march between two fresh ridges, and so on. Thus it will be
seen that the ridges, though apparently parallel, are not accurately so,
and that one may be continuous for more than ten miles or so, when it
ends and another takes its place.

On our march our captives cleverly caught a spinifex rat and a snake (one
of the very few that we saw); they greedily devoured both, and were much
pleased when Godfrey refused to partake of a piece of half-raw snake which
they politely offered him. We discovered that they had a great liking for
our beef-water--that is, the water in which our salt beef had been
cooked--and made no bones about swallowing a couple of gallons of this
brine-like soup. It had one good effect, for it made them most anxious to
take us to water the next morning! The hills we found to be of the usual
character, barren sandstone, from which numerous rocky creeks have torn
their way through the sand. Following up a little glen, terribly rough
and steep for the camels, we came at length to a fine pool, hemmed in by
almost sheer cliffs sixty feet high. Climbing to the top of these, I
could see that the same rough country extended for a considerable
distance to the westward, and that further travel up the glen was
impossible; so we retraced our steps down the creek, on the banks of
which we found grass and bushes in profusion, and poison plant. This
drove us away into the sandhills beyond all harm, and, unfortunately,
beyond all feed as well, nor had we time before night set in to cut and
carry any bushes for the camels, as we might otherwise have done.

That night our camp was in lat. 21 degrees 25 minutes, long. 128 degrees
20 minutes. The following morning I ascended the highest point in the
range, whilst Breaden and Warri took our animals for a final drink up the
glen. The lake was just visible, lit up by the rising sun, but I doubt if
during the day it could be seen. From the range numerous creeks, nine in
all, run Eastwards, one of which, I think, reaches the lake, as
with field-glass I could follow a serpentine line of gum trees. The rest
run out a few miles from their head on to grass-flats timbered with large
gums. The hills are of sandstone in layers, dipping to the West; these
seem to have been forced up into three-cornered blocks, the faces of
which have weathered away on the East side, forming steep slopes of
stones and boulders. Between the hills low ridges of sandstone running
North and South outcrop only a few feet above the surface, and are
separated by strips of white sand timbered with stunted gum trees. The
whole scene has a most strange and desolate appearance.

Returned to camp, I liberated the two guides, for I did not wish to
inconvenience them by taking them beyond their own country. They were
quite unwilling to go, and indeed waited until we were ready to start,
and were most anxious for us to go to the East again. "Gilli nappa,"
they assured us, was to be found, making their meaning clear by tracing
in the sand a winding line to represent a creek; and when at the end I
drew a lake, they were highly pleased, and grunted and snapped their
fingers in approval. However, when I showed them that we were going due
South their faces assumed so dismal an expression, and so vehement were
their exhortations to go in the other direction, that we concluded we had
no picnic before us. Had they had any intentions of coming further our
change of course decided them, and they made tracks for the glen, bearing
with them many rich gifts. An empty meat tin and a few nails does not
sound a very great reward for their enforced services, and yet they would
have been far less pleased with a handful of sovereigns; they could put
these to no use whatever, whereas the tins will make small "coolimans,"
and the nails, set in spinifex-gum on the end of a waddy, will find their
way into a neighbour's head.

We had really terrible country that day, during which we made no
more than nine miles. At first travelling was easy, as a flat belt
of sand came between the range and the sandhills; later on, however,
we were forced to climb up and down, now mountainous sandhills over one
hundred feet in height, now jagged hills and breakaways of sandstone;
dodging down little steep gullies, with the camels' packs almost touching
each side, up steep rocks, or along their faces, until the horses and
camels alike were quite exhausted. Fortunately we were rewarded by a fair
camp for feed, close by a noticeable bluff. We crossed nine deep creeks,
in any of which, at their heads, pools may exist.

Climbing the bluff next morning, I could see that the range curved round
to the South-East for some miles, possibly a great many. To continue
following round the foot would advance us but little; I therefore decided
to cross the range somehow. It was evident that any great extent of this
rocky country would soon place the camels HORS DE COMBAT, as every step
cut their feet, and every few minutes they ran the risk of a sprained or
broken limb; mules would be more suitable for such country. The further
we advanced the rougher became the ground, the narrower the little glens,
and the steeper the rocks. However, one final and tremendous scramble
landed us all safely above the hills, and to our joy we found that a flat
plain of spinifex spread before us. On it were clumps of mulga. Now we
hoped we had done with the ridges. But no! more yet, in spite of hopes
and prayers, and for the next two days we were crossing them at the rate
of eighty-eight per eight hours. It really was most trying, and had a
very bad effect on one's temper. I fancy my companions had the same
difficulty, but I found it nearly impossible to restrain myself from
breaking out into blind rages about nothing in particular. But the cursed
sand-ridges made one half silly and inclined to shake one's fist in
impotent rage at the howling desolation. Often I used to go away
from camp in the evening, and sit silent and alone, and battle with
the devil of evil temper within me. Breaden has told me that he had
the same trouble, and Godfrey had fearful pains in his head to bear.
The combination of heat, flies, sand, solitude, the sight of famished
horses, spinifex, and everlasting ridges, and the knowledge that the
next day would be a repetition of the day before, was enough to try
the sweetest temper; and I, for one, never professed to have such a
thing. Added to this we had the feeling that our work and energies
could have but a negative result--that is, the proof that the country
was barren and useless; and yet its very uselessness made it harder to
travel through. But with all this we never had a complaint or growl
from any in the camp. About this time I again became deaf, which did not
tend to make me any more patient.

Another stretch of plain country, a mile or two in width, again raised
our hopes and again dashed them, as more ridges confronted us on the
other side. A change of any kind is welcome, therefore the gloomy desert
oaks were greeted with joy; for though their sombre appearance is
eminently appropriate to a funeral procession, they give some shade and
relieve the eye. In due course we reached the burnt country for which we
had steered, and, after hours of tracking, singled out some footsteps
going straight away as if to camp. Warri and I were leading, riding
Highlander in turn; on cresting a high ridge we saw before us a little
clump of mulga and grass, amongst it a camp of some dozen or more
natives. As soon as we advanced they all ran, except two men, who stood
their ground for a short space, then, throwing a stick and boomerang in a
most warlike way, they followed their tribe. It was imperative that we
should have a fresh guide, so I followed on Highlander, and succeeded in
stopping the last man simply by wearing him out. He was a most diminutive
man, almost a dwarf, absolutely without ornament, not even a girdle of
string, with a most repulsive face, and wall-eyes like a Welsh sheepdog.
He was by no means afraid, and before long became friendly and returned
with me to their camp.

The tribe had left behind them a number of treasures--bundles of
firemaking sticks, bean-and-gum ornaments, and the usual bark
"portmanteaus" [Note at end of paragraph.] containing hair-string,
feathers, red ochre, and other knick-knacks. Amongst their weapons was a
curiously shaped boomerang; on one of the woommeras was a rough carving of
either a spider or crab. As soon as the camels arrived we unloaded and set
to work on the well, "soak-sucking" in our old style. By morning we had
watered the camels and horses. The former were of course pretty fit,
but the poor ponies had done a fair stage, especially so since they had
had no feed except the rank dry tops of the spinifex. May 3rd sunrise,
to May 8th sunrise, they had travelled on what water we could afford them
from our own supply, viz., three gallons apiece nightly, and six gallons
the first night. The grass around the well, though dry, was of great
benefit to them. For the camels we had to cut down the mulga trees, the
branches of which grew too high from the ground to permit them to browse
off the leaves. A number of dingoes serenaded us as we worked at night;
what they live upon is not quite clear, unless it be spinifex rats. There
were other small rats in the locality, two of which the dwarf had for
supper--plucked, warmed upon the ashes, torn in pieces by his long nails
and eaten; an unpleasant meal to witness, and the partaker of it badly
needed a finger-bowl, for his hands and beard were smeared with blood.
He did not take kindly to salt beef, for his teeth were not fit for hard
work, as he pointed out to us; and salt beef is not by any means easy to
masticate. As a rule the blacks have such splendid teeth that the dwarf's
case is remarkable, seeing that he was not at all an old man.

[* Note: A native bark "portmanteau," brought back from this locality,
was opened at Newstead Abbey and found to contain--

1. Plumes of hawks' and crows' feathers.
2. Neck-bands of opossum wool.
3. String bracelets.
4. Fragments of quartz, suitable for spear and chisel heads.
5. Fragments of sandstone, for making red paint.
6. Message-stick.
7. A stick 12 inches long, wrapped in downy feathers and greasy string;
on this was wound a great length of human-hair string, forming a
bobbin-shaped article, the use of which I do not know. I have now three
portmanteaus still unopened.]

The Dwarf Well had a better supply than any we had seen, and it is
possible that there is some soakage into it from the surrounding country.
It lies nearly five miles south of a low range of hills, the highest
point of which bears 1 degree from it; to the North a sand-ridge, to the
South a spinifex plain, six miles wide, then more ridges. I make its
position to be lat. 22 degrees 19 minutes, long. 128 degrees 16 minutes.
On the plain to the south are one or two small outcrops of ironstone and
quartz, sticking up out of the sand, as if some hills other than sandstone
had existed, and become buried by the all-spreading sand. I carved C on a
tall mulga-tree close to the well.

May 9th we left the well on a Southerly course, and were soon amongst the
ridges, which continued for the next two days. The night of the 11th,
having skirted a line of rough cliffs, we camped about three miles North
of a very prominent single hill, which I named Mount Webb, after W. F.
Webb, Esq., of Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire. As the sun rose that
morning the mirage of a lake of apparently great size was visible for
90 degrees of the horizon--that is, from East round to South. Neither from
the cliffs that we skirted, nor from Mount Webb, was any lake visible, but
it is more than probable that a large salt lake exists in this locality,
possibly connecting, in a broken line, Lake White and Lake Macdonald. A
mirage sometimes appears in exactly the opposite direction from that in
which the lake lies, but I noticed when standing on the Stansmore Range
that as the sun rose Lake White was clearly visible, whilst when the sun
had risen a few degrees above the horizon the lake disappeared. I am of
opinion, therefore, that large lakes will some day be found to lie to the
North-East of Mount Webb. Had we not been so pressed for time I should
have made a flying trip in this direction. Mount Webb is flat-topped,
isolated, rocky-sided, innocent of all vegetation, of sandstone capped
with quartzite, standing out with imposing clearness some five hundred
feet above a plain of spinifex and mulga scrubs. From its summit numerous
hills and bluffs can be seen; to the South spinifex plains and ridges;
to the South-East a tabletop between two bluffs; to the West a low line
of stony hills, beyond them a limitless sea of sandhills; to the
North-West a broken range of peaks, and, far distant, a large hill
swaying in the haze of heat.

From the foot of the hill a hunting-fire was seen close by. "Gabbi,
gabbi," said the dwarf, greatly excited; and when we turned towards
it "Yo-yo-yo" in approval. As we silently approached we saw two
old hags flitting about, as nimbly as their aged limbs would allow, in
the blazing spinifex--now picking up a dead lizard, and now poking about
with their yam-sticks as if in search of some rat which had been roasted
in his burrow. It is impossible to describe the look of terrific awe on
the faces of these quaint savages. Let us imagine our own feelings on
being, without warning, confronted by a caravan of strange prehistoric
monsters; imagine an Easter holiday tripper surrounded by the fearful
beasts at the Crystal Palace suddenly brought to life! What piercing
shrieks they gave forth, as, leaving their hunting implements, they raced
away, to drop, all at once, behind a low bush, where, like the ostrich,
they hid their heads, and so hoped to escape detection.

It was almost impossible to gain the confidence of the gins: old ladies
seem so very suspicious. The dwarf somewhat reassured them, and after
much difficulty one was persuaded to show their camp--and such a
camp!--perched up in the rocks on a little plot of sand, close by a
miniature watercourse, and in this a small native well, so rock-bound
as to preclude further opening out. And yet for this miserable affair we
were glad to offer up thanks, for the sake of the ponies. What labour for
a few gallons of water, not so much as we use in our baths every morning
in civilised countries! But no man could stand idly by and watch the mute
longing of his faithful horses. So freeing the dwarf and the old gin, a
fit pair, we set to work. All that afternoon and all through the night we
dug and hauled and scraped, and by morning had the horses watered and
twenty gallons to boot. There had been eight or nine blacks at this camp,
who, on their return from hunting in the evening, watched our proceedings
with intense annoyance. They stopped about one hundred yards away, and,
yelling and shrieking, brandished their spears in a most warlike manner.

That night they camped not far off, and, as on every other occasion on
which we invaded their homes, I consider we owed our immunity from attack
to the fact that work on the well entailed one or other of the party
being up all through the night, thus acting as a watch. Had they known
their power they might have made things most unpleasant by spearing our
camels. Fortunately it is only those natives who have come within the
civilising influence of the white man, that learn such little acts of
courtesy. It is noticeable that amongst the treasures in this camp were a
great quantity of "letter-sticks," which is evidence that the carvings
on letter-sticks cannot be written messages, unless this camp was a
desert post-office! If, however, the sticks are tokens, as I suppose,
then one of this tribe may be a craftsman who carves distinctive symbols
on each stick to order, and who had lately received a number of
commissions for such sticks. It seems likely that one man or tribe should
have a special aptitude for manufacturing message-sticks, whilst others
perhaps make a speciality of hair-string or spears. Or again it may be
that the number of sticks, certainly two dozen, denote orders from
far-off tribes, who wish to barter such articles as pearl-shells for
perhaps spinifex-gum of a superfine quality. (I have noticed that the
spinifex growing on the sandstone hills, particularly on the Stansmore
Range, exudes a great deal more resin than that growing on the sand.)
This bartering of goods is very remarkable, and here we found pearl
oyster-shells which must have passed from tribe to tribe for at least
five hundred miles; pieces of glass, carefully protected by covers of
woven feathers and opossum-string; the red beans which are found in
Kimberley, and, as Warri tells me, in the MacDonnell Ranges of Central
Australia; a stone tomahawk-head, a dark green stone (serpentine); and
besides, numerous sporrans of rats' tails, feathers, nose bones, red
ochre, and a piece of the top part of a human skull polished and slung on
a string. Certainly for its size this was the best appointed tribe we had

The position of this well, a very poor one, is lat. 22 degrees 57 minutes,
long. 128 degrees 20 minutes--one mile West of Mount Webb.

Some good grass grows in the mulga scrubs which are dotted over the plain
surrounding the hill. Nine miles south of the Mount, sand-ridges, East
and West as usual, are again met with; from the crest of one we saw the
last of Mount Webb, twenty-two miles distant. We now hourly expected to
get a view of Lake Macdonald, a large dry salt lake discovered by Tietkens
in 1889. Tietkens was Giles's right-hand man in all, or nearly all, his
journeys--a man whose great services to his country have never been
acknowledged, because, I suppose, as second in command his name seldom
appeared in the accounts of his leader's travels, and yet he shared his
dangers and troubles, stood by him in many tight corners, helped him no
doubt with counsel and advice; and though by his work--for Tietkens was
an eminent surveyor--many hundreds of miles of previously unknown regions
have been mapped, a grateful country has nothing to give in return! We
all know, though, how generous Governments are in such matters. Did not
Ernest Giles die, only the other day, in poverty and neglect? I know he
had a Government billet at 2 pounds 10 shillings a week, noble and
generous reward for the best years of his life spent in toiling over the
howling wilderness of the interior! Doubtless all debts will be
considered paid by the erection of a statue, and nine people out of ten
will not have any notion of who the man was or what he has done! Tietkens
in 1889 led an expedition to determine the true extent of Lake Amadeus,
the confines of which were marked as "probable." His work resulted in
greatly decreasing the area of the lake, which now lies entirely in South
Australia. However, this side of the border he found the lake already
mentioned, and, encircling it, returned to the point on the
Adelaide-Port-Darwin telegraph line from which he had started.

The lake is surrounded, at a distance, by numerous sandstone ranges and
hills, the drainage from them no doubt forming it. Tietkens experienced
rains in this region; no such luck fell our way, and everything was
parched and drought-stricken. I was able to identify the Winnecke Hills,
and one or two others, but, having only a small map of this part of the
country, could not locate many points.

Close to the Winnecke Hills we again surprised two gins hunting, and,
amongst their spoils of the chase, were astonished to see a common
domestic black cat, evidently just killed. It must have wandered far from
home! One of the women took us to their camp and small well, which was in
so awkward a situation that I decided not to do any work upon it. Its
position was in a very steep, narrow gorge in the sandstone, along which
the camels could pass with difficulty. There was no feed for our animals,
except at the mouth of the gorge a mile distant, and then there was but
little. It would take three to work the well, leaving only one to look
after the camp, and "tail" the horses and camels. Since the supply was
problematical, the well almost inaccessible, and waste of time the only
likely result, we passed on--the one and only occasion on which we left a
well untried. Numerous natives must have been in this camp, for I found
no less than thirteen bark "portmanteaus." As the gin had shown us the
well without demur, I left all these untouched. It was a struggle between
honesty and curiosity; but it seemed too mean to take things, however
interesting, when they had been left so confidently unprotected. And yet
birds' nests are robbed without any such scruples! I had no hesitation,
though, in taking the gin with us, in spite of her unwillingness, for
famished horses must be relieved. Once across the hills the sand-ridges
became less high, were dotted with oaks, and even had some herbage
growing on them.



On the 16th we had breakfast by moonlight, and were well on our way
before daylight. From a ridge higher than the others we got the only
glimpse of the lake that was permitted us by the sandhills. About two
o'clock, the gin, who had been making towards the Davenport Hills
(Tietkens), suddenly turned off and brought us to a little well in the
trough of two ridges--the usual wretched concern, yielding no more than
three bucketsful. We worked far into the night. Having to observe for
latitude I stayed up last, and baled the well before going to rest,
leaving about two gallons in the bottom to allow it to settle before
morning. At daylight we heard loud howls and snarls coming apparently
from the centre of the earth. Further investigation disclosed a lean and
fierce-looking dingo down our well, which, in its frantic struggles to
get out, had covered up our little pool of water and made a horrible mess
of things. I never saw so savage-looking a brute, and, not feeling called
upon to assist it, I ended its troubles with a bullet--a kindly act,
which doubtless, on their return, gave a welcome supply of cheap meat to
the tribe who had only lately retired from the well, and also added to
our small store of dingo-tails, which (at 5 shillings each), so far as we
could see, would be our only means of deriving any profit from our
labours. I think we only got five, and they were lost!

Our position there was lat. 23 degrees 26 minutes, long. 128 degrees 42
minutes. The gin on showing us the well had been at once liberated, a
step which I now rather regretted--but one cannot be unkind to ladies,
even though they are black, naked savages, little better than beasts!
Remembering that she had pointed towards the hills ahead, I steered on
that course, and before long we came on the tracks of a man, woman, and
child, walking in the same direction. Here I saw a pure white spinifex
rat, leaping the tussocks in front of me, but of course had no means of
stopping it.

All that day we followed the tracks, over sandhills, samphire-flats,
through clumps of desert oak, past dry wells, from sunrise until sunset.
Warri and I were ahead for in tracking it is better to be well in
advance--riding and walking in turn until Highlander knocked up and had
to be led. Breaden and Godfrey had awful work behind to get the camels
along. At almost every sandhill one or other of them, usually Bluey,
would drop and refuse to budge an inch until forced by blows. How the
poor brutes strain, and strain again, up the steep, sandy slopes; painful
sight, heart-breaking work--but work done!

We crossed the Davenport Hills shortly before sunset and waited on the
other side for the main party, in case in the bad light and on the hard
rocks our tracks should be missed. As they came up, we heard a distant
call--a gin's--and presently the smoke from a fire was visible. The Monk
had done the least work that day, and was the staunchest horse, indeed
the only one capable of more than walking, so I despatched Godfrey to
surprise the camp, whilst we followed. He rode right on to the tribe, and
was accorded a warmish welcome, one buck casting his spear with great
promptitude. Luckily his aim was poor and the spear passed by Godfrey's

When we arrived on the scene I found Godfrey standing sentinel beneath a
tree, in the branches of which stood at bay a savage of fine proportions.
He had a magnificent beard, dark brown piercing eyes, splendid teeth, a
distinctly Jewish profile, and no decorations or scars on his chest or
body. I shall not forget the colour of his eyes nor their fierce glitter,
for I climbed the tree after him, he trying to prevent my ascent by
blows from a short, heavy stick which I wrested from him, and then with
broken branches of dead mulga, with which he struck my head and hands
unmercifully, alternately beating me and prodding me in the face,
narrowly missing my eyes. If he suffered any inconvenience by being kept
captive afterwards, he well repaid himself beforehand by the unpleasant
time he gave me. And if it was high-handed treatment to capture
unoffending aboriginals, we did not do so without a certain amount of
risk to ourselves; personally I would far sooner lie down all night
chained by the ankle to a tree, than have my head and knuckles laid bare
by blows from dead branches!

After a time I succeeded in securing one end of the chain round the wild
man's ankle, and the other round a lower branch. Then I came down and
left him, whilst we unloaded and had something to eat. We had had a long
day of over ten hours continuous travel, and as the sun had long set we
decided to take no steps for water-getting until morning. Being sure of
soon getting a fresh supply, we gave what water we had to the horses, on
whom the desert was rapidly leaving its mark. As we sat on the packs
round the tree, eating our salt beef, our black friend, with evident
wonder at our want of watchfulness, took the opportunity of coming
quickly to the ground, only to find that he was tethered to the tree. His
anger had now subsided, and, though refusing to make friends, he seemed
grateful when I bound up a place on his arm, where he had been hurt in
his descent from the tree. The spears of his tribe were of better
manufacture than those of the ordinary desert man, having bone barbs
lashed on with sinews. The next morning we moved camp, as, from our
position in a hollow, we should have been at a great disadvantage had the
tribe returned to rescue their mate. We found their well, a deep
rock-hole, half filled in with sand, on the southern slope of a stony
sandhill, situated in a small patch of grass and buck-bush. From the hill
above the rock-hole, a prominent bare range of red rock can be seen to
the South bearing 172 degrees to the highest point (these are probably
the Warman Rocks of Tietkens). We were now within seven miles of the
imaginary line forming the boundary between West and South Australia, the
nearest point to that Colony our journeyings took us.

At first we hoped the hole would prove to be a soakage, but in this we
were disappointed, and had to resort to our old methods of box-sinking
and clearing out the sand. Our work at first was comparatively easy, but
as soon as water-level was reached a great wedge of sand fell in, and
nothing remained but to clear out the whole of the cavity, scraping up
the water as we went lower. From 7.30 a.m. on the 18th, until 2 a.m. on
the 19th, then again from 6.30 a.m. until 4.30 p.m. on the same day, we
slaved away with no more than one and a half hours' interval.

After digging out the sand and hauling it in buckets to the surface we
had a rock-hole nearly conical in shape, twenty-five feet deep, twenty
feet by fifteen at the mouth, narrowing in on all sides to three feet in
diameter at the bottom. The first day and night we laboured until we
literally could no longer move, from sheer exhaustion. Breaden was so
cramped and cold, from a long spell in the wet sand below, that we had to
haul him out, put him in his blankets, and pile them upon him, though the
night was warm. The result of all this toil--not quite ninety gallons of
far from pure water! What a country! one ceaseless battle for water,
which at whatever cost one is only too thankful to get! Of the ninety
gallons, sixty were distributed amongst the horses and camels, the
remainder we kept for our own use and that of the horses when we
continued our journey. Eight miles of sandhills on the 20th took us,
under the native's guidance, to another rock-hole--full to the brim--its
water protected from the sun by an overhanging ledge of rock.

Here we soon had the thirsty animals satisfied, and had time to consider
the rather comical aspect of affairs from the black-fellow's point of
view. How he must have laughed to himself as he watched us toiling away,
coaxing out water drop by drop the days before, when all the time a
plentiful supply was close at hand! Excellent grass surrounds the
rock-hole, enclosed by mulga thickets, so we rested here a day, shooting
a few pigeons and enjoying the first proper wash since April 25th, when
we last camped at a good water. Whilst travelling, of course no water for
washing could be afforded, as every pint was of some service to the

This rock-hole is in lat. 23 degrees 44 minutes, long. 128 degrees
52 minutes. On May 22nd we continued our journey, marching South over
irregular sandhills, forcing our way through scrubs, until, on the evening
of the 23rd, we were in the latitude of the centre of Lake Amadeus, as it
was formerly marked by Giles. I was anxious to see if Tietkens had perhaps
passed between two lakes, leaving an unnoticed lake on his left. We now
altered our course to the West, sighting a large bare hill some forty
miles distant, which I take to be Mount Skene (Giles). This hill is close
to the high ranges, the Petermann and others, and it would have
simplified our journey to have turned to them, where good waters are
known to exist, but I desired to see what secrets unknown country might
hold, even though it might be only sandhills.

This proved to be the case, and during the next six days we crossed the
most barren wilderness it had been our lot to see, not a bite of food for
camels or horses, who, poor brutes, turned in despair to the spinifex and
munched its prickly spines--not a living thing, no sign of life, except
on two occasions. The first when, at the beginning of the stage, we
captured a young gin, whom I soon released for several reasons, not the
least important of which, was that Warri was inclined to fall a victim to
her charms, for she was by no means ill-looking. The second living thing
we saw was a snake, which we killed; how it came to inhabit so dry a
region I cannot say. Now that our course was Westerly, we had expected to
run between the ridges, but no such luck attended us. True, we marched
between the SAND-ridges, but every now and again a ridge of ROCK running
exactly across our course had to be negotiated. Yet further, and
sandhills thrown up in any irregular order impeded us, then loose sand;
everywhere spinifex, without even its accustomed top-growth, drought, and
desolation! Native tracks were very scarce, even old ones; some of these
we followed, only to find DRY rock-holes and wells at the end of them.

We were all walking again now, ploughing our way through the sand, men
and camels alike exhausted, and the poor ponies bringing up the rear, the
tail-end of a miserable caravan. And they, following behind, were a
useless burden; we could not ride them, and yet for their sakes our
supply of water became less and less; we denied ourselves beef (which
meant at least a bucketful of water to boil out the salt) to keep them
alive; poor faithful things, none but curs could desert them while life
to move was left in their bodies. On the night of the 29th, for our own
safety, I could allow them no water, for so great had been the drain that
our tanks had but a few gallons left. The next was a day of
disappointments. All day we followed the same two tracks, from rock-hole
to rock-hole--all were dry as the sandstone in which Nature had placed
them. We could see where the blacks had scraped out the sand at the
bottom--if THEY could not find water, what chance had we? But every step
took us closer--that is the great consolation in such cases. First, have
perfect faith that water will eventually be found, then each forward move
becomes easy, for you know that you are so much nearer relief. Every dry
hole gives a greater chance that the next will be full.

Near one hole we came on a ceremonial or dancing ground--that is, a
cleared space in the mulga scrub, circular in shape, with a cleanly swept
floor, trodden down by many feet. In the centre stood a sort of altar of
branches and twigs. It was evident that the blacks had danced round and
round this, though for what purpose I cannot say.

As the sun set our faith was rewarded; before us in an outcrop surrounded
by mulga lay two fine rock-holes with an ample supply. What a blessed
relief! In a few minutes the horses were gorged, and hard at work on the
rough grass near the holes. Hardy horses, indeed! Eight days from drink
to drink (not counting what we gave them), and hardly a scrap of feed.

We took a two days' rest for the sake of the grass, and varied our daily
fare of salt beef with small, tufted pigeons, which came in large numbers
to drink. We shot nearly one hundred of them, and ate boiled pigeon three
times a day with the voracity of black-fellows. Nor was Devil-devil
forgotten in the feast; he had become an expert rider, and had a far
better time than poor Val.

The curious fact of some rock-holes being full, whilst others a few miles
off are empty, again exemplifies the very local character of such rain as
visits these parts. The "Deep rock-holes," as we called them (in lat. 24
degrees 20 minutes, long. 127 degrees 20 minutes), are peculiar, for one
is perfectly cylindrical, two feet six inches in diameter going down
vertically to a depth of twenty feet; the other goes down straight for
six feet, and then shelves away under the rock to a depth of at least
twelve feet. It will be seen from our last few days' experience, and from
that of the few days soon to follow, that in this region rock-holes are
numerous. They are invariably situated on low surface outcrops of 'desert
sandstone, surrounded by mulga and grass; beyond that, sand. I take it
that they have been formed in the same way as the granite rock-holes in
the south of the Colony--that is, by decay; that the whole country has
been covered by a deposit of sand, borne by the winds, filling in former
valleys and hollows, leaving only occasional patches of rock still
visible. Their frequent occurrence would then be accounted for by the
fact that the deposit of sand is shallower here than elsewhere. That it
is so is pretty evident, for here the sand-ridges are much lower than
further North, and still further South they disappear. Low cliffs are
seen, and when the latitude of Forrest's route is reached, sandstone
hills are numerous and rock-holes abundant. In the course of ages perhaps
the sand will again be shifted until such reservoirs as the "Deep
rock-holes" are filled in and hidden, or partially covered and converted
by the natives into wells. Supposing a layer of sand to a depth of five
or six feet could be thrown over the valley in which the Deep rock-holes
are situated, the holes would at once be transformed into "Native Wells,"
the term "well" being a misnomer, and apt to suggest a copious supply to
any unacquainted with the interior. I suppose that to the uninitiated no
map is so misleading as that of West Australia, where lakes are salt-bogs
without surface water, springs seldom run, and native "wells" are merely
tiny holes in the rock, yielding from 0 to 200 gallons!

From our position at the rock-holes, by skirting, possibly without
sighting, the end of the Rawlinson Range and steering nearly due
South-West, we should hit off Woodhouse Lagoon of our upgoing journey.
For simplicity in steering I chose a due South-West course, which should
take us a few miles to the East of the lagoon, two hundred miles distant
in a bee-line. I was anxious to see what water it held, and check my work
by re-crossing our track of the previous year; and besides this, the
lagoon lay on our most direct course for the nearest settlements, still
450 miles away on the chart.

Whilst resting at the rock-holes I took the opportunity of giving Bluey a
lesson in manners, much to the entertainment of my companions.

Bluey was a brute of a camel, and used to give an immensity of trouble in
the mornings, galloping off at full speed when he should have quietly
waited to have his nose-line adjusted. Added to this, he would kick and
strike with his fore-legs, so much so that none of us cared about
catching him. One morning whilst Breaden was after the horses, I was
helping Warri collect the camels, and tried my hand with Bluey. At the
moment that I was putting the loop of his line on to the nose-peg, he
reared up and struck me on the chest, his hobble-chain adding power to
the blow, which sent me spinning on to my back. For this and other
assaults I meant to punish him, so shortening his hobbles until his
fore-legs were fastened with no more than an inch or two between, I armed
myself with a stout stick. As I had expected, as soon as I started to put
on his nose-line, off he went as hard as he could, jumping like a
kangaroo, and I after him beating him the while. Round and round we
went, the pace getting slower and slower, until, amidst shrieks of
laughter and shouts of "The Leader wins!" "Bluey wins!" "Stick to it!"
and so forth, from want of breath we came to a stop, and gazed at each
other, unable to go further. It was a tough run, and, like a schoolmaster
caning a small boy, I felt inclined to say, "Remember, my dear Bluey, it
pains me as much as it does you."

The lesson had a most salutary effect, and never again did he gallop away
when being caught in the morning, though he was not a well-behaved beast,
and always the first to give in in the sandhills, even though carrying
the lightest load. His good looks, however, were so much in his favour
that subsequently a wily Afghan paid me a big price for him
(comparatively), and winked to some fellow-countrymen as if he had got
the best of "Eengleeshman." If he was satisfied, I am sure that I was.



On June 1st we left the rock-holes on a South-West course, crossing
irregular sandhills with the usual vegetation.

On June 2nd we crossed the last sand-ridge of the great northern desert,
and before us spread the rolling gravel-covered undulations of sand,
treeless except for an occasional beefwood or small clump of mulga,
rolling away before us like a swelling ocean. What a blessed relief it
was after the awful toil of crossing Heaven knows how many sand-ridges day
after day!

Taking into account the country north of lat. 24 degrees 45 minutes
only--for though we had a long spell of sand-ridges between the edge of
the desert and Woodhouse Lagoon, and again between that point and Lake
Wells, yet these were comparatively low and less steep than those further
north, and therefore their extent is not included in this reckoning--we
traversed 420 miles on the upgoing journey, and 451 miles on the return
journey--that is, 871 miles of actual travelling over a desert of sand
blown by the wind into parallel ridges of the height and frequency
already described. It will be readily understood, therefore, that we were
not sorry to see the last of them! Working our way step by step, we had
so husbanded the marvellous powers of endurance of our camels that, in
spite of the most terrible privations and difficulties, these noble
animals had silently carried their loads day by day, up and down, over
the burning sand, maddened by flies, their legs worn bare by
spinifex--carried them not without great sufferings and narrow escapes from
death, but yet without one of their number succumbing to the horrors of
the region. Accident and poison had carried off four. And now, alas!
another was to meet the same fate. Poor Satan, my faithful companion in
good times and bad, whose soft velvet nose had so often rubbed my cheek
in friendship, was laid low by the deadly wallflower. In spite of all we
could do for him, in spite of coaxing him yard by yard, Warri and I--as we
had done to Misery before--for a day's march of over fifteen miles, we
were forced to leave him to die. We could not afford to wait a day,
always onward must it be until another water is found, so, with a bullet
through his head, I left him to find his way to the Happy Hunting-grounds
where there are no native wells nor spinifex, only flowing rivers and
groves of quondongs! All this about a camel--"a devil and an ostrich and
an orphan child in one," as we have been told--but remember that often in
the solitary bush one's animals are one's only companions, that on them
one's life depends. How, then, could one fail to love them as friends and

Shortly after the scene of Satan's death the mulga clumps became greater
in extent, until for half the day, and more, we wound our way through
dense thickets. The further South we went the thicker they became, until
all day long we marched through scrub, seeing no more than forty yards
ahead, with packs, saddles, and clothes torn to pieces by dead and broken
branches. We saw no smokes, no spinifex rats, no natives, no tracks but
old ones, and these led us only to dry rock-holes. Time after time we
followed recent tracks from hole to hole, and met with no success;
sometimes we were just in time to be too late, and to see that the last
drops had been scraped up by the natives!

On June 6th we followed a fresh track, and found a hole containing thirty
gallons. June 7th and 8th, dense scrub. June 9th, open country, lake
country, gum tree flats, and magnificent green feed, the first we had
seen since leaving Sturt Creek. On our right high sandhills, whose
butt-ends in the distance had the appearance of a range of hills; on our
left thickets of mulga, and beyond, a sandstone range. Kangaroo tracks
were numerous, but none very fresh; these and the number of birds gave us
hopes of water. We must find some soon, or not one horse could survive.
Poor ponies! they were as thin as rakes, famished and hollow-eyed, their
ribs standing out like a skeleton's, a hat would almost hang on their
hip-joints--a sorry spectacle! All day we searched in vain, the animals
benefiting at least by the green herbage. Ours was a dismal camp now at
nights. What little water we could spare to the horses was but as a drop
in the ocean. All night long they shuffled about the camp, poking their
noses into every pack, overturning dishes and buckets, and, finding
nothing, stood with sinking heads as if in despair. Our water-casks had
to be guarded, for in their extremity the horses could smell the water,
and even went so far as to pull out the wooden bung, with their teeth!
Warden, the small pony, was a special offender in this respect. It is
quite startling to wake suddenly in the night and find a gaunt,
ghost-like horse standing over one, slowly shaking his head from side to
side, mournfully clanging his bell as if tolling for his own death. Then
at other times one heard the three bells sounding further and further
off. This meant a hasty putting on of boots and wakening a mate to stir
up the fire and make it blaze; then, following the sound through the
darkness, one came up with the deserters, shuffling along in single file,
with heads to the ground, turning neither to right or left, just
travelling straight away in any direction as fast as their hobbles
allowed. Heaven knows how far they might go in a night unless stopped in
time and dragged back to camp. Indeed blankets do not mean sleep, with
dry horses in the camp!

On the 10th The Monk, our best horse, fell, and was dead in a minute--run
down like a clock. The other two followed slowly behind. Presently. a
salt-lake [This I named Lake Breaden], enclosed by sandhills, barred our
way--a cheerful sight indeed! Hung up in its treacherous bogs, with
nearly empty tanks, dying horses and tired camels, what chance had we?
Speculation of this kind must not be indulged in; time enough to cry out
when the troubles come. Providence was with us as guide, and across the
lake we dodged from sand-spit to sand-spit until we had beaten it, and not
one animal was bogged.

The night of the 10th our supply was down to three gallons. None could be
spared for the horses now, none could be spared for beef-boiling, only a
little for bread, and a drop each to drink. Every rock-hole we had
seen--but one--was dry. Alexander Spring would be dry. We should have to
make for the Empress Spring, fifty miles beyond. Every thing pointed to
the probability of this sequence of events, therefore the greatest care
must be exercised. The horses would die within a few miles, but the
camels were still staunch in spite of the weakening effect of the
sand-ridges, so there was no need for anxiety. Yet we could not help
feeling anxious; one's nerves get shaky from constant wear and tear, from
want of food and rest. We had been in infinitely worse positions than
this; in fact, with health and strength and fresh camels no thought of
danger would have been entertained, but it is a very different matter
after months of constant strain on body and mind. Faith--that is the
great thing, to possess--faith that all is for the best, and that all
will "pan out" right in the end.

The days were closing in now, the nights were cold, so we were away
before sunrise, and, leaving the rolling sand, came again into mulga
thickets, with here and there a grassy flat, timbered with bloodwoods--the
tail end of a creek no doubt rising in the sandstone cliffs we had seen
ahead of us. Shortly after one o'clock a sight, that brought more joy to
us than to any Robinson Crusoe, met our eyes--a track, a fresh footprint
of a gin. Whether to follow it forward or back? That was the question. On
this might hang more than the lives of the horses. In nine cases out of
ten it is safer to follow them forward--this was the tenth! "Which way?"
said Godfrey, who was steering. "Back," said I, for what reason I cannot
say. So back we followed the lady to see where she had camped, twisting
and turning, now losing her tracks, and, casting, finding them again,
until we were ready to stamp with impatience and shout D--n the woman!
why couldn't she walk straight? Two hours brought us our reward, when an
opening in the scrub disclosed a deep-banked creek, fringed with
white-stemmed gums, and, beyond, a fire and natives camped. They all ran,
nor did we care, for water must be there. Glorious sight! a small and
green-scummed puddle, nestling beneath the bank, enclosed by a bar of
rock and the bed of shingle. Before many minutes we had the shovels at
work, and, clearing away the shingle and sand, found a plentiful supply.
All HAD ended well, and just in time to save the horses. Considering the
want of feed, and the hardships they had already suffered, they had done
a remarkable stage. A stage of eleven days (from the evening of May 31st
to the evening of June 11th)--a distance of 160 miles on the map, and a
good many more allowing for deviations, during which they had but little
water. We had brought them through safely, but at the cost of how much
trouble to ourselves may be judged from previous pages and the following
figures. We left the Deep rock-holes with exactly 102 gallons of water;
decrease by breaking through the scrub must have been considerable, as we
had nearly thirty gallons of this amount in canvas bags.

Added to this must be the 30 gallons we got from the small rock-hole--that
is, 132 gallons in all. Of this supply the horses had 6 gallons each the
first night, 3 gallons each subsequently until the day The Monk died and
their ration was stopped. From 132, we take 90 (the horses' share).
This leaves 42 gallons for four men and a dog (which drinks as much as
a man) for eleven days; this supply was used for washing (an item hardly
appreciable), bread-making, drinking, and beef-boiling, the last the most
ruinous item; for dry-salted beef is very salt indeed, and unless boiled
thoroughly (it should be boiled in two waters) makes one fearfully
thirsty. What would otherwise have been an easy task was made difficult
and uncomfortable by the presence of the horses, but we were well
rewarded by the satisfaction of seeing them alive at the finish.



June 12th, 13th, 14th, we rested at the welcome creek and had time to
examine our surroundings. I made the position of our camp to be in lat.
26 degrees 0 minutes, long. 125 degrees 22 minutes, and marked a gum tree
near it with C7. Therefore I concluded that this was the Blythe Creek, of
Forrest; everything pointed to my conclusion being correct, excepting the
failure to find Forrest's marked tree, and to locate his Sutherland
Range. However, the bark might have grown over the marking on the
tree--and several trees showed places where bark had been cut out by the
natives for coolimans, and subsequently closed again--or the tree might
have been burned, or blown down. As to the second, I am convinced that
Forrest mistook the butt-ends of the sand-ridges cut off by Lake Breaden
for a range of hills, for he only saw them from a distance. The creek
heads in a broken sandstone range of tabletops and cliffs; from its head
I sighted a peculiar peak, about nine miles distant, which I took to be
Forrest's "Remarkable Peak," marked on his map. From the sketch that I
made, Sir John recognised the peak at once. From the cliffs the sandhills
round Lake Breaden look exactly like a range of hills "covered," as
Forrest said, "with spinifex." Another proof of the non-existence of, at
all events, the northern portion of the Sutherland Range, is afforded by
Breaden's experience. As I have already stated, he accompanied Mr.
Carr-Boyd on a prospecting trip along this part of Forrest's Route. From
his diary I see that they passed about three miles North of Forrest's
peak, which Breaden identified, though by Mr. Carr-Boyd's reckoning they
should have been twenty miles from it. Travelling due West across the
creek on which we were camped, they found a large clay-pan, and were then
hourly expecting to cross the Sutherland Range. However, no range was
seen, only high sandhills. That Breaden's reckoning was correct was soon
proved, for he and I walked from our camp and six miles West found the
big clay-pan and their camel tracks. The lagoon was dry, though they had
found it full of water. It is clear, therefore, that the range exists
only as sandhills, north of lat. 26 degrees 0 minutes. Numerous other
creeks rise in the broken range, and no doubt their waters, after rain,
find their way into Lake Breaden.

Our camp was on the longest of them, though others that I followed down
were broader. Above our camp, that is to the South-East, a ledge of rock
crossed the creek forming a deep little pool which would hold plenty of
water. I much regretted being unable to find Forrest's tree--but a tree
unless close to some landmark is not easily come upon--as at its foot he
buried a bottle holding letters and his position for that camp.

We saw no more of the natives who had been camped on the creek, but left
some articles that should be of great use to them. Everything of weight
that was not absolutely necessary was left here, and this included a
number of horseshoes.

On, the 15th we were ready to start, and marched on a West-South-West
course until we should sight Mount Worsnop, and turn West to the
Woodhouse Lagoon. A mile and a half from our camp we crossed another
creek, and on its banks a tree marked G.H.S., and NARROO cut in the bark.
Evidently the prospectors had been pushing out in our absence, or else it
was another overland party from South Australia, for Forrest's route has
become quite a fashionable track, some half-dozen parties having crossed
the Colony in this latitude. On the next day we sighted Mount Worsnop
from eight miles (from the East it is more prominent than from the
South). This was a day of miracles! It RAINED--actually RAINED! The first
rain we had seen in the interior--not a hard rain, but an all-day
drizzle. How cold it made us, and how wet!--not that we minded that. But
the winter was approaching, we were daily getting further south, and with
our blood thin and poor, our clothes of the lightest and most ragged,
accustomed to scorching heat, we felt the cold rain very much indeed. Our
teeth chattered, and our hands were so numbed that at night we could
hardly undo the straps and ropes of our loads. A cold night, accompanied
by a heavy dew, followed the rain; and for the first time on either
journey we pitched a tent. During this, Devil-devil, wet and shivering,
sneaked into my blankets for warmth, for, as a rule, he slept outside, in
a little nest I made for him in one of the camel saddles. Such sudden
changes in temperature made any "Barcoo" sores most painful; but
fortunately we had suffered comparatively little from this unpleasant
disease. A beautiful sun dried and warmed us in the morning, and crossing
a narrow salt-lake (probably a continuation of Lake Breaden), we reached
our old friend Woodhouse Lagoon on June 17th, nearly a year having
elapsed since our first visit, August 19th, in 1896.

We were disappointed, but not surprised, to find the lagoon nearly dry,
holding no more than six inches of water in the deepest place. But
curiously enough Alexander Spring, found dry before, was now brimful,
evidently filled by the recent rain, which had not been heavy enough to
fill the lagoon. Here we camped for two days, which we could ill afford,
as already we had to cut down our rations, and before long our meals
would dwindle to one instead of two a day. Godfrey's sickness
necessitated a delay--he suffered from such fearful pains in his head,
poor fellow! Often after a day's march he would collapse, and lie prone
with his head nearly bursting from pain. A drink of strong tea would
relieve him, but when water was scarce he had just to suffer.

I had a splendid chance of replenishing our larder, and, fool that I was,
I missed it. I was riding The Warden to the spring, when a kangaroo
popped up on his hind legs, and sat looking at me. The Warden would not
keep still; the surprised kangaroo actually waited for me to dismount and
aim my rifle, but just as I fired The Warden jerked my arm and I missed,
and away bounded many a good meal--and with it the pony! So I continued
my way on foot, and was rewarded by finding some interesting things. A
big camp of natives had been here in our absence; near the spring in the
scrub was a cleared corroboree ground, twenty feet by fifty yards,
cleaned of all stones and enclosed by a fallen brush-fence (this older
than the other work, showing this is a favourite meeting-place). At one
end was a sort of altar of bushes, and hidden beneath them a long, carved
board. This I took, and afterwards gave to Sir John Forrest. In every
tree surrounding the clearing a stone was lodged in the forked branches.

The pile of stones on Mount Allott had not been touched, nor had my board
been removed. On it I found an addition to my directions to the
lagoon--an addition made by two prospectors, Swincer and Haden, who had
been in this locality two months after our first visit. I did not meet
either Mr. Swincer or Mr. Haden, but I heard that my board had been of
great service to them, for without it they would not have known of the
lagoon, where they camped some time. G.H.S. carved on a tree near the
Blythe Creek was also due to them; I believe that was about their
furthest point reached, from which they returned to Lake Darlot. On their
return they depended on a water which failed them, and they had in
consequence a narrow squeak for their lives. On nearing camp I met
Breaden and Warri, who had started to track me up, for Warden's return
with an empty saddle had caused a little anxiety.

I observed for latitude that night, and was pleased to find that my two
positions for the lagoon agreed almost exactly, both in latitude and
longitude--a very satisfactory result considering the distance we had

On the 20th we started again, steering a course a little South of West,
my intention being to round the North end of Lake Wells, and cut the
Bonython Creek, with the object of seeing if another oasis, on our
suggested stock route from South Australia, could be found. It need
hardly be said that any idea of a stock route from Hall's Creek is
absolutely impracticable. Between Woodhouse Lagoon and Lake Wells the
country consists of low sand-ridges, on which grows an abundance of
acacia bushes and others suitable for camels, alternating with open
spinifex plains, mulga scrubs in which good grass grows, and nearer the
lagoon one or two small grass plains. All through cliffs and bluffs are
met with, from which small creeks ending in a grassy avenue run; and, as
Lake Wells is approached, table-topped hills and low ranges occur, and
occasional flats of salt-bush country. We had no longer any difficulty
with regard to water, the rain having left frequent puddles where any
rocky or clayey ground was crossed. In the sand no water could be seen;
indeed we had a sharp shower one morning, water was running down the
slopes of sand, but half an hour afterwards no sign of it could be seen
on the surface. On the 23rd we sighted, and steered for, a very prominent
headland in a gap in a long range of cliffs. Sandhills abut right on to
them, and dense scrub surrounds their foot. The headland, which I named
Point Robert, after my brother, is of sandstone, and stands squarely and
steep-cliffed above a stony slope of what resembles nothing so much as a
huge heap of broken crockery.

We camped at the head of a little gorge that night, having found a rocky
pool; the rain cleared off, out came the stars, and a sharp frost
followed, the first of the year. The character of the country was
extraordinarily patchy; after crossing ridges of sand, and then an open,
stony plain, on the 25th we camped on a little flat of salt-bush and
grass. Our position was lat. 26 degrees 20 minutes, long. 123 degrees 23
minutes, and seven miles to the North-West a flat-topped hill, at the end
of a range, stood out noticeably above the horizon of scrub; this I named
Mount Lancelot, after another brother. The next day it rained again,
making the ground soft and slippery. In the evening, to our surprise and
disgust, further passage that day was cut off by a salt swamp. Not
wishing to get fixed in a lake during rain, we camped early, pitched our
tent and hoped for the rain to stop--an unholy wish in this country, but
salt-lakes are bad enough without rain! The next two days were spent in
trying to find a crossing, for we found ourselves confronted by a series
of swamps, samphire flats, and lake channels running away to the North as
far as could be seen by field-glasses--a chain of lakes, hemmed in by
sandhills, an unmarked arm of Lake Wells. If we could not cross here we
might have to go seventy miles out of our way, round the South of Lake
Wells, and then back to the Bonython.



Four attempted crossings ended in the hopeless bogging of horses and
camels, entailing the carrying of loads and saddles. At last we could not
get them to face the task at all; and small wonder, for floundering about
in soft, sticky mud is at least unpleasant! I am pretty confident that we
could have managed to get the camels through somehow, but the horses were
far too weak to struggle. Poor old Highlander sank to his belly,
struggled for a minute just long enough to get further engulfed, and then
threw up the sponge and lay panting until we came to his rescue. We had a
job to get him to the shore, and only succeeded by digging out two legs
on one side, putting a rope round them, then the same on the other, and
by violent efforts dragged him on to his side. Then, one at his head and
the rest on his legs, we turned him over and over until we came on firmer
ground, when we put the ropes on his legs again and by main force hauled
him on his flank to the margin of the lake, where he lay half dead. The
others fared but little better; it was evident that a crossing could not
be effected except at the cost of the horses.

From a sandhill near our camp numerous hills could be seen, the more
prominent of which I named. To the West-North-West a table-top hill
(Mount Courtenay, after my brother-in-law) standing in front of a
prominent tableland; to the northward Mount Lancelot; to the
East-South-East a line of cliffs standing above stony rises, at the
southern end a bluff point (Point Katharine, after my sister); and eight
miles to the South-South-West, two flat-topped hills, close
together--these I named Mount Dora and Mount Elisabeth after two of my
sisters. Little did I think that I was never to see again the dear face
of one of them! As a last hope, I and Breaden went across the lake to
these hills to look for a break in the swamps. From Mount Elisabeth an
extensive view can be obtained, but no signs of the lake coming to an
end. From Mount Elisabeth, which, by the way, is of quartzite, I took the
following bearings: Mount Courtenay 331 degrees, Mount Lancelot 23
degrees, Point Katharine, 78 degrees. To the West numerous broken
tablelands can be seen, and the same to the South. Clearly there was no
chance of crossing this lake or rounding it on the North, for the white
streak of salt could be seen for miles and miles in that direction. There
was nothing to be done but to skirt the edge of the lake, and if
connected with Lake Wells to skirt that too, until a crossing could be
found. So we loaded up and steered East and then South-East to round the
swamps. Due West of Point Katharine, four miles distant, we found a large
freshwater lagoon surrounded by stony banks and ridges. It contained only
a few inches of water, but is capable of holding it to a depth of six
feet. Beyond it is a stony cotton-bush flat, and on it numerous white
clay-holes of water, almost hidden by the herbage.

Water-hens were so numerous that we could not pass by so good an
opportunity, and camped early in consequence, spending the rest of the
day in shooting these birds. The rest was a good thing for Breaden, too,
who had been hurt by Kruger as he struggled in the salt-bog. The next
morning we struck South, and by night found the lake again in our way.
From a high bank of rocks and stones we could see the arm that had first
blocked us, running round the foot of the hills and joining a larger lake
which spread before us to the South. Across it some high, broken
tablelands could be seen. There was no doubt from our position that this
was Lake Wells, but I had expected to find a tableland (the Van Treuer of
Wells) fringing the Northern shore. However, the Van Treuer does not run
nearly so far East as Wells supposed when he sighted it from the South.
No crossing could be effected yet, so the next day we continued along the
margin of the lake, along a narrow strip of salt-bush country hemmed in
between the lake and sandhills. On July 2nd we found the narrow place
where Wells had crossed in 1892; the tracks of his camels were still
visible in the soft ground. The crossing being narrow, and the bog
shallow--no more than a few inches above a hard bed of rock--we had no
trouble whatever.

We now followed the same course as Wells had done, passing Lyell-Brown
Bluff--from which Mount Elisabeth bears 339 degrees--and Parson's Bluff,
eventually striking the Bonython Creek. This, as described by Wells, is a
flat, shallow, and, in places, but ill-defined watercourse. In it are one
or two good deep pools, of which one is probably permanent. Fringing the
banks is a narrow strip of salt-bush and grass; beyond that mulga and
coarse grass. This narrow belt of good country continues down to the
lake, and as we saw it just after the rain looked fresh and green. There
is no extent, but sufficient to form a good resting-place for travelling
stock. Some cattle-tracks of recent date were visible, a small wild herd
of stragglers probably from the Gascoyne. Turkeys were seen in fair
numbers, but they were the shyest birds I have ever come across--so much
so that we never got a shot. The late rain had left so many pools and
puddles that we had no chance of waiting for them at their
watering-place. One of the wild cattle beasts, amongst which must be a
bull, for we saw tracks of quite young calves, would have been very
acceptable, for our meat had come to an end. In consequence we wasted no
time in further examining the Bonython, but made tracks for Lake Darlot.
The days were getting so short now that, in order to accomplish a good
stage, we had to rise long before daylight and collect the camels and
horses, following their tracks by means of a fire-stick. In this way we
were enabled to get a start at sunrise, having breakfasted--in

Several parties of prospectors have been to Lake Wells, and at first we
followed a regular pad; however, it did not seem to be going very direct,
so we left it. Between Lake Wells and Lake Darlot--a distance of about
130 miles--the country consists of open mulga thickets with a coarse
undergrowth of grass, alternating with spinifex desert and sand.
Occasional low cliffs and ridges occur, and nearer Lake Darlot numerous
ranges, from which the Erlistoun Creek takes its rise. Amongst these
hills we saw the first auriferous country since leaving the vicinity of
Hall's Creek, and in the Erlistoun the first permanent water (probably)
since leaving the Sturt Creek, a distance of about 800 miles. A narrow
belt of grass and salt-bush fringes the Erlistoun, and in the winter looks
healthy and succulent; however, a few months soon alters that, and in the
summer all is parched and yellow. How pleasant it was to see such
country, after the dreary desert! Tracks and roads were now numerous as
we approached civilisation. The same lake lay between us and the
settlement that had caused Conley, Egan, and myself so much trouble in
former days. Choosing the same narrow channel where I had formerly
crossed, we managed very fairly well. Most of the camels bogged, but some
did not, nor did the horses, and our loads now consisted of little else
but the saddles, and were therefore no great weight to carry. The weather
was lovely now, bright warm days and frosty nights; unfortunately this
tends to sharpen the appetite, which we had small means of satisfying.
For the last ten days we had had nothing but damper, and not much of
that, on which we spread tinned milk which had previously been discarded
as unfit for use, being dark brown instead of white, and almost solid.
Nevertheless it was better than nothing; a ten hours' march, begun on an
empty stomach, and finished on a slice of bread, cannot be indulged in
for many days before it leaves its mark. We were not sorry, therefore, to
reach Lake Darlot township on July 15th, and, choosing a nice spot, made
camp. This day we saw the first white face since April 9th, and our
journey was practically over.

The excellent feed growing all over the flats near Lake Darlot gave us a
good opportunity of recruiting our animals' strength. For nearly a month
we moved slowly about between Lake Darlot and Lawlers prospecting in a
desultory sort of way. Our departure from the former place was deeply
regretted--by the butcher, whose trade had increased by leaps and bounds
during our stay. "I never see'd coves as could stack mutton like you
chaps," he said, in satisfied wonder; "why, a whole blooming sheep don't
seem to last you a day; can't ye stop until I get some bullocks up the
track?" Certainly that was the best fresh mutton I have ever tasted, and
no doubt we DID do our duty by it.

By degrees the camels fattened and fattened, until the combination of
flesh and the hard muscles their work had formed, made it difficult to
believe how great the trials were they had been through. The horses were
also getting less like skeletons, though they take far longer than camels
to regain their strength; as a rule, if they have been through great
hardships they never do regain it and are, practically, useless
afterwards. Stoddy, whose back had been bad, was also recovering--this
the only sore back amongst them after so many miles of country well
calculated to knock both packs and backs to pieces.



By easy stages and frequent halts we eventually reached Coolgardie, after
an absence of thirteen months. Of these, ten and a half months were
occupied in travelling, during which we traversed a little over three
thousand miles. Of this, 550 miles was traversed by roads and tracks,
whilst the remainder was through country beyond the limits of any


Holding Nearly Quite
Water. Dry. Dry.

Springs 2 1 Helena, Empress, and Alexander.
Creeks 9 * Including Christmas, Janet, Mary,
Margaret, and Sturt in Kimberley;
Blyth,+ Bonython,+ Erlistoun.
Clay-pans 2 4
Rocky pools
in gorges 8 **
Rock-holes 3 3 21 Of these 4 were completely drained,
and 2 left with water.
Native Wells 8 3 22 Of these 6 were completely drained,
and 5 left with water.

* Numerous small dry watercourses were seen.
** Numerous dry pools in rocky gorges were seen.
+ The only two in the desert area.


Upgoing Return Total in
Journey. Journey. Miles.
From edge of desert
to Woodhouse Lagoon 220 MIXED COUNTRY including
From Woodhouse Lagoon low sandhills, spinifex
to edge of desert 260 plain. Desert Gum flats
From end of Sturt Creek with occasional scrubs
to Gordon Hills 50 and patches of grass
---- 530

From Woodhouse Lagoon UNDULATING DESERT of
to Family Well 370 spinifex, stones, and
From Deep Rock-holes gravel, with occasional
to Woodhouse Lagoon 210 scrubs.
---- 580

From Family Well
to Mount Bannerman 420 SAND-RIDGES. Desert of
From Gordon Hills sand blown into
to Deep Rock-holes 450 parallel ridges running
---- 870 on an average course of
East and West, varying
in height from
20-100 feet.

From Cutmore's Well
to edge of desert. 100 COUNTRY OTHER THAN
From Mount Bannerman DESERT, including open
to Hall's Creek 150 scrubs with grass, open
From Hall's Creek grass plains, belts of
to end of Sturt Creek 160 grass fringing river
From edge of desert banks, small oases,
to Lake Darlot 50 and hilly country.
Oases (Helena Spring,
Woodhouse Lagoon,
Lake Wells, &c.) 10
---- 470
2,450 *
550 By roads and tracks.
3,000 **
* Of which 2,210 were through country unmapped except where routes of
previous explorers were crossed.
** Total mileage in round numbers, taking into account all deviations.

From the above table it will be seen that the greater part of the
interior of the Colony seen by us is absolutely useless to man or beast.
It is possible that between the Lake Darlot goldfield and the 25th
parallel of latitude isolated areas of auriferous country may be found,
though nothing that we saw proves this to be likely; and I base my
opinion only on the facts that quartz and ironstone are known to occur in
the vicinity of Lake Augusta and the Warburton Range. It is also possible
(and this I have already discussed) that a travelling route for stock may
be formed from South Australia along the 26th parallel as far as Mounts
Allott and Worsnop, and thence VIA Lake Wells and the Bonython Creek. to
the Erlistoun Creek and Lake Darlot.

Failing either the finding of gold, or the formation of a stock route
from oasis to oasis, I can see no use whatever to which this part of the
interior can be put.

North of the 25th parallel the country is absolutely useless until the
confines of the Kimberley district (about lat. 19 degrees) are reached.
That a stock route through the desert is quite impracticable we have
clearly demonstrated. Even supposing that there was any water supply,
there is no feed; nothing but spinifex grows in more than wee patches at
very long intervals. As any one who has followed me through this book can
see, our water supply was most precarious, depending as we did upon
rock-holes and native wells (which at any time may be found dry), and
these yielded an only just sufficient quantity to keep no more than nine
camels from dying for want of a drink--every well that we found, with the
exception of one or two, was drained and left empty. Indeed on our two
journeys there are only two watering-places on which I should care to
depend, viz., the Empress Spring and Helena Spring. Throughout our journey
we never once found water by chance--though chance took us to more than
one dry hole--but found it only by systematic and patient work, involving
many scores of miles of tracking, the capture of the wild aboriginals, and
endless hours of manual labour. Without having resorted to these
expedients I have no hesitation in saying that neither we nor the camels
would be living today, for though without having done so, other parties
have crossed as great an extent of arid country, it must be remembered
that our journey was accomplished through infinitely worse country, and
with a party exactly half as large as the smallest of the previous
expeditions across the interior. Where, with a large number of camels, it
would be possible to carry a great quantity of water and do long stages,
using the water for camels as well as men, with a small number such
tactics as going straight ahead, and trusting to luck, could only end in

It has been my fate, in all my exploration work, to find none but useless
country, though when merely prospecting on the goldfields I have been
more fortunate. So far, therefore, as being of benefit to mankind, my
work has had no better result than to demonstrate to others, that part of
the interior that may best be avoided. No mountain ranges, no rivers, no
lakes, no pastoral lands, nor mineral districts has it brought to light;
where the country was previously unknown it has proved only its
nakedness; nevertheless I do not regret one penny of the cost or one
minute of the troubles and labours entailed by it. Nor, I am confident,
do my companions repine because they wasted so many months of their lives
in such a howling wilderness. May good fortune attend them wherever they
go; for they were brave and true men, and to them I once more express my
feelings of thanks and gratitude for their untiring energy and help
through all our journeyings. I verily believe that so large an extent of
country, good or bad, has never been travelled through by a more cheerful
party, or by one, the members of which were more in accord; and to the
unanimity, and ready co-operation that prevailed throughout the camp, the
successful issue of the expedition must in a large degree be ascribed.

Before leaving Coolgardie I had to perform the melancholy task of selling
off my camels and all belongings. I have seldom felt anything so deeply
as the breaking up of our little band, and the sale of my faithful
animals. However, it was a matter of necessity, for much as I wished to
pension off my favourites I was not in a position to do so, and
eventually made my exit from the Colony in much the same state as that in
which I arrived.

Before leaving for home I spent some time in Perth, where the
Surveyor-General, Mr. Johnston, did all in his power to assist me in the
preparation of plans and maps. These, together with all information I had
gathered, I placed at the disposal of the Government, for which they were
pleased to express many thanks. At a gathering in the Perth Town Hall, at
which I was present on the day of my departure, Sir John Forrest, the
Premier, proposed the toast of the guest and said many kind things, to
which I replied: ". . . I regret that I am only able to give such a bad
report of the far interior of this Colony; but even so, and even though
it has not been our fortune to discover any country useful either to the
pastoralist or miner, yet I hope we have done good service in proving the
nature of a large tract of country previously unknown. Our late journey
will, I think, give an answer to the oft-repeated question, "Does the
gold-belt extend in a direct line from Coolgardie to Kimberley?" and the
answer is in the negative. At least we have demonstrated the uselessness
of any persons wasting their time and money in farther investigation of
that desolate region. Such an expedition might be undertaken for
pleasure, but this I should not recommend, for few countries present such
difficulties of travel or such monotony of scenery or occupation.
Although I am leaving this country, probably for good, I would not wish
it to be thought that I have no faith in it, for the late developments
and marvellous returns from the goldfields should convert the most
sceptical. Nor have the other sources of wealth to the Colony failed to
impress their importance on me. . . Every one is glad to return to his
home, and I am no exception; but however happy I am at the prospect of
again seeing my native land, yet I cannot say goodbye to the numerous
friends I have been fortunate in making in this Colony without sincere
feelings of regret. Every day the Old Country, which we are all proud to
call Home, and the New are learning to understand each other better, and
the bond of friendship between them is ever strengthening. If I have been
able to promote these feelings in however small a degree, and have been
able to show that the Home-born is still able, and willing, to take his
share in the pioneer work of this continent of Australia, as his fathers
were before him, then I have not worked in vain."


The foregoing pages would, I fear, give the reader a very bad impression
of the Colony of West Australia, until it was fully understood that my
experiences relate solely to the interior and to that part of the
interior the borders of which can only be reached by a journey of some
four hundred miles by train from the coast--that part of the Colony, in
fact, which lies to the East of longitude 121 degrees.

Now West Australia is so large that, despite the desert nature of so much
of it, there still remain many thousand square miles of country suitable
for settlement and rich in mineral wealth.

The settled portions show a picture the reverse of that I have been
compelled to exhibit in the course of my travels.

The Colony altogether covers no less an area than 975,920 square miles, a
little over eight times the area of Great Britain and Ireland. It
occupies the whole of the continent West of the he 129th east meridian.
In 1826 a party of soldiers and convicts formed the first settlement at
King George's Sound. Three years later a settlement was established on
the banks of the Swan River. From this modest beginning the progress of
the settlement, which at first was slow in the extreme, came with a rush
on the discovery of gold. The population of the Colony now exceeds
150,000 souls, and there can be no doubt that this population will be
substantially added to annually, when the advantages which the country
possesses, over and beyond its auriferous districts, come to be more
generally known and recognised.

The progress of prosperity and civilisation undoubtedly runs parallel
with railway progress, and since the Government of the Colony became
autonomous that progress has been rapid. Seven years ago the total
mileage was 193. There is now, as I write, a total length of 1,200 miles,
1,000 of which have been constructed during the past six years. Of these
1,200 miles, 923 belong to the State and the balance to a private
company, whose line runs from Perth, along the coast northward, to the
port of Geraldton. But though lines have been laid from Perth to
Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, and Cue, settlers are breaking ground farther
afield, and further extensions both in the direction of the agricultural
districts and of the goldfields are contemplated. The State railways,
which may be looked upon as completely efficient, have paid, according to
a statement in the West Australia year-book, a dividend of 11 1/2 per

Although I have elsewhere described the primitive nature of the postal
arrangements on the goldfields, it must be borne in mind that this
relates to early days; now, the number of letters passing through the
offices reaches 26,000,000; of newspapers, 17,000,000; while parcels to
the extent of 5,000,000, and over a quarter of a million of postcards,
and 1,000,000 telegrams were dispatched in one year, although the Postal
Department all over the Colony is shockingly managed. There are no less
than 5,429 miles of telegraph line open. The rapid increase displayed in
these figures is the outcome, undoubtedly, of the gold discovery. The
first official record of gold production was in 1886, when the yield for
the six months ending that year was 302 oz., valued at 1,148 pounds. The
yield for 1897 was over 700,000 oz., representing rather more than 2 1/4
millions sterling.

Owing to the "sporadic and pockety" nature of the finds it was at first
supposed that gold would only be found in superficial deposits. This
supposition has now been completely upset by the result of sinking
operations at Kalgoorlie and elsewhere.

The richness of the Western Australian goldfields is established beyond
the possibility of a doubt, and though over-capitalisation and want of
proper management have had their customary ill-effects upon the industry,
yet the undoubted and immense value of the auriferous yield should make
the ultimate prosperity of the Colony a matter of certainty.

But the Colony does not rely alone upon its gold for prosperity. It has
other and substantial sources of revenue in lead, copper, tin, coal, and
timber, to say nothing of the excellence of the agricultural outlook.

The mineral district of Northampton, connected with the port of Geraldton
by railway, is rich in lead and copper. Tin has been found in great
quantity at Greenbushes in the South-West. Thirty years ago these
districts were worked for their ores, but a great scarcity of labour,
combined with a sudden fall in the prices of the metals, led to the
abandonment of the mines. Since, however, the discovery of telluride ores
at Kalgoorlie the abandoned lead and copper mines have recovered their
old value, and many mining leases have quite recently been taken out
in the Northampton district for the purpose of working them, and after
the preliminary work of emptying the old shafts of the water which has
accumulated, has been accomplished, there is every probability that
smelting operations will yield a handsome profit. Coal has been found on
the Collie River district and, tested by the Government, has been proved
to be of good quality and to exist in seams varying from two to four
feet in thickness.

The Government, by way of trial, raised 1,000 tons of coal at a cost of
about 16 shillings per ton. The field is open to private enterprise, and
as the land may be leased on the lowest possible terms there seems to be
a good opening for the capitalist.

In considering other sources of revenue in the Colony I should be
inclined to put that of the timber industry at the head, and this the
more so that steps have been taken by the West Australian Government for
the proper conservation, systematic working, and efficient replanting of
the forest-lands. Hitherto in young colonies the disafforesting of
districts has been for agricultural and other purposes recklessly
proceeded with. Warned by example, the West Australian Government have
taken steps for the preservation and utilisation of their valuable
forest-lands. In 1895 Mr. J. Ednie-Brown was engaged by the Bureau of
Agriculture to make a tour of inspection in the Colony. This gentleman
having had experience as Conservator of Forests both in South Australia
and New South Wales, was eminently fitted for his position as Conservator
in West Australia. Having made his tour in 1896 he issued his report. It
is to this report I am indebted for the information contained in this
brief notice.

The principal commercial forests lie in the South-Western districts of
the Colony.

Mr. Ednie-Brown gives a list of thirty-five varieties of indigenous
forest-trees, but as only a certain number of them are known to be of
real commercial value, I shall confine my remarks to the better known and
more widely used species. These are: Jarrah (EUCALYPTUS MARGINATA), Karri

In addition to these are many important but secondary forest-trees, as
the Wattle (ACACIA SALIGNA), Raspberry Jam (ACACIA ACUMINATA), Badjong
(ACACIA MICROBOTRYA), Peppermint Tree (AGONIS FLEENOSA), Banksias of all

There are many other trees of some value, but the foregoing represent the

The total area of the principal forest regions of Western Australia
covers no less than 20,400,000 acres, made up of:--

Jarrah 8,000,000 acres.
Karri 1,200,000
Tuart 200,000
Wandoo 7,000,000
York Gum, Yate Sandalwood,
and Jam 4,000,000

Jarrah is, without doubt, the principal forest-tree of Western Australia.
This tree is dark grey in colour, with the bark strongly marked in deeply
indented furrows. It grows on an average to a height of 90 to 120 feet,
with stems 3 feet to 5 feet in diameter, running 50 to 60 feet to the
first branch. There are, of course, very many larger individual
specimens. The wood is red in colour, polishes well and works easily,
and weighs when seasoned about 63 lbs. to the cubic foot. It is
extensively used for wood-paving, piles, jetties, bridges, boat-building,
furniture, and railway sleepers. It makes splendid charcoal, and when cut
at the proper season exhibits remarkable durability both in the ground as
fence-posts and in water.

Karri is the giant tree of West Australia. It is extremely graceful in
appearance, with a yellowish-white smooth bark, which flakes off each
year like that of our planes. The trees grow to a height of 200 feet,
with a diameter of 4 feet at a height of 3 or 4 feet from the ground, and
the first branch generally occurs at a height of 120 to 150 feet from the
base. This tree does not occur in such numbers as the Jarrah, its
field of growth being limited. Its timber resembles that of the Jarrah,
but cannot be wrought so easily, though for purposes of street-paving it
is superior. It is this wood which is so extensively used in London. It
is also of value for bridge planking, shafts, spokes, felloes, waggon
work, and beams.

Tuart is also comparatively limited in extent. It attains to a height of
100 to 150 feet, having a diameter of 7 to 9 feet at the base and about
40 feet to the first branch. Its timber is extraordinarily hard and tough
and difficult to split. It is of great value as bridge supports, dock
gates, stern posts, engine supports, &c., and it is also extensively used
in the making of railway wagons and wheelwright's work generally.

Sandalwood, which is more of a bush than a tree, runs small as a rule. It
is fairly distributed over the Colony. Formerly there was a greater trade
in sandalwood than now; but the overstocked Chinese markets being sold
out, the West Australia trade is rapidly reviving.

Raspberry Jam is a handsomely shaped rounded acacia, and gets its name
from the scent of its wood, which is exactly that of the raspberry. An
oil is extracted from the wood, which is highly perfumed. The wood is
impervious to the attacks of the white ant.

In addition to these the Red Gum, the Wandoo, and York Gum are timber
trees of value.

The total output of the saw-mills for 1895 was 130,000 loads,
representing a gross value of 400,000 pounds.

It will thus be seen that the forests of the Colony form no
inconsiderable portion of its wealth, and afford employment to large
numbers of workers both in the forests themselves and in the saw-mills
and wharves.

The culture of the vine and various fruits is carried on in the
South-Western districts to a great extent--the soil, the climate, and the
elevation all tending to give the best results.

The chief fruits grown are apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums,
cherries, apricots, quinces, oranges, and lemons.

Viticulture forms a marked industry, though as yet largely undeveloped.
There are 1,450 acres under cultivation, and this area is rapidly
increasing. The slopes of the coastal ranges are admirably adapted for
the culture of the vine, and the chief varieties grown are those most
suitable for wine-making and for the table. Chasselas Doradillo, White
Rice, Black Alicante, and Muscat of Alexandria are largely cultivated.
There is, I conjecture, a good field open for the capitalist in the
direction of the wine manufacture.

Pastoral and agricultural pursuits are carried on with success in many
districts; agriculture is chiefly confined to the South-West corner of
the Colony. Cattle, sheep, and horses are raised all along the coast-line
from Albany to the De Grey, and in the far north, the Kimberley district.
The Nor'-West, however, labours under the disadvantage of drought on the
one hand and floods on the other. There are several regulations
governing land tenure, and when the emigrant has made a selection of the
land suitable for his purpose (and in this he should exercise great
care), he can get his land either as a free grant, or on lease, or by
conditional purchase. On these points emigrants will be fully informed at
the office of the Agent-General (Sir Malcolm Fraser, K.C.M.G.),
15 Victoria Street, Westminster, S.W.

There is no doubt that the soil of the S.W. district is fertile to a
degree, and capable of supporting a large pastoral and agricultural
population; and, as prices rule high, doubtless an emigrant suitable for
either pursuit would find good remuneration for his capital and labour.

In addition to the foregoing industries, there is another of almost equal
importance--that of the pearl and pearl-oyster fishery. Reports have been
issued by piscicultural experts, proving the suitability of the coasts
for the culture of the fish, and the matter has "come into official
consideration"; and it is to be hoped that Government will take steps to
foster this lucrative pursuit, the centres of which are at Shark's Bay,
about two hundred miles North of Geraldton, and at Broome, yet further
North. In 1896, twenty-one tons of mother-o'-pearl were exported at a net
profit of about 40 pounds per ton. However, there is every reason to
suppose that, properly and scientifically nurtured, pearl fishing should
prove well worthy of attention.

Though I have come to the conclusion that, unless Spinifex and Sand can
be conjured into valuable marketable products, the far interior of the
Colony is worthless for any purpose, yet I have also shown that beyond
the borders of the desert Nature smiles her brightest; and, given
population, West Australia may well vie in wealth and usefulness with any
of her sister colonies.

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