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Spinifex and Sand by David W Carnegie

Part 4 out of 6

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down on the solitary caravan as it presents the only living object around
must have contemplated its appearance with pitying admiration, as it
forced its way continually onwards without pausing over this vast sandy
region, avoiding death only by motion and distance, until some oasis can
be found."

Not a cheerful description certainly! Every day's Northing, however,
would take us further in or out of this region, as the case might be, and
fervently we hoped for the latter. Whatever country was before us we were
firmly determined to push on, and by the grace of God to overcome its
difficulties. Again referring to Giles's journal I find that during this
part of his journey--viz., near the range where we were now camped--the
change of temperature during night and day was very excessive. At night
the thermometer registered 18 degrees F., whilst the heat in the daytime
was most oppressive. This, in a less degree, was our experience, for the
month being September the days were hotter and the nights less cold. No
doubt this extreme change in temperature, combined with the dry
atmosphere and the tremendous heat of the sun, has caused the hills to be
weathered away in the remarkable shapes of which McPherson's Pillar is a
good example. The pillar is formed of a huge square block of red rock,
planted on the top of a conical mound, perhaps fifty feet in height,
whose slopes are covered with broken slabs and boulders. This remarkable
landmark, which, from the North, is visible from twenty-four miles
distant, I named after Mr. McPherson, a well-known and respected
prospector, who, though leaving no record of his journey, crossed the
Colony from West to East, visiting the hills and waters on Forrest's
route as far East as the Parker Ranges, and thence striking Giles's route
at the Alfred and Marie, and so VIA the Rawlinson into Alice Springs, on
the overland telegraph line. Though little of his journey was through new
country, yet it had the valuable result of proving the non-existence of
auriferous country in the belt traversed.

Due West of the Pillar, distant two and a half miles, situated in a
scrub-covered rocky gorge, is a fair-sized rockhole. Breaden and Godfrey
managed to get about two gallons of filth from it; I have swallowed all
kinds of water, but this was really too powerful. Had we been hard
pressed it would undoubtedly have been used, but since we had not long
left water, we discarded this mixture, after trying it on Czar, whose
indignation was great. In the branches of the mulga round the rock-hole I
noticed what I have seen in several other places, viz., stones wedged in
the forks--dozens of stones of all sizes and shapes. I have no knowledge
of their true significance. It may be, and this is merely a guess, that
they indicate the presence of poison in the rock-hole; for by means of a
certain plant which is bruised and thrown into the hole, the water is
given a not actually poisonous but stupefying property. Thus birds or
beasts coming to drink fall senseless and an easy prey to the ambushed
native. This is a common plan in many parts of Australia, and was
described to me by a tame boy from the Murchison. Here, too, were more
little pyramids, similar to those at Empress Spring. Some quaint
black-fellows' custom, but what it signifies even Warri cannot explain.
Breaden has a theory that they point to the next water-hole. This may be,
but, unless for a stranger's benefit, quite unnecessary, as every black
knows his waters; and if for a stranger it is equally peculiar, for his
welcome is usually a bang on the head! It may be that messengers or those
who, wishing to trade from tribe to tribe, get the free passage of the
district, are thus guided on their way. The number of pyramids may
represent so many days' march.

There must have been some open water besides this dirty rock-hole, but
having sufficient for present requirements we did not waste time in
further search, and on September 2nd turned again to the North. On this
course we continued until September 6th, the country showing no change
whatever, which constrained me to say of it, so I find in my diary,
"Surely the most God-forsaken on the face of the earth"; and yet we had
worse to follow!

Our rate of travel over the gravel was a small fraction more than two
miles per hour. This I carefully reckoned by timing, taking into account
every halt of ever so small a duration in our march in a due North line
between two latitudes.

In lat. 23 degrees 34 minutes, long. 125 degrees 16 minutes, there rose
before us, visible for several miles, high banks of stones, such as one
sees on either side of the old bed of a river which has altered its
course. The slopes were covered with spinifex and on the top red and
weeping mulga--the latter a graceful little tree, whose bowed head adds
little to the gaiety of one's surroundings. I cannot offer any
explanation of these curious banks, except that, from the appearance of
one or two large flat boulders on the summit, it may be that they were
formed by the entire disintegration of a sandstone cliff, to which decay
has come sooner than to its neighbours further South. Future experience
showed us that further North the gravel becomes small and smaller until
it disappears, the rolling sandhills giving place to regular ridges. If
this is the case viz., that the hills and ranges are gradually rotting
away until they disappear, leaving only gravel behind, which, in its
turn, decays and decays until only sand remains, then in the course of
ages the whole of this region will be covered with ridge upon ridge of
sand formed by the wind, whose powers so far have been checked by the
weight of the gravel. For the sake of future generations I hope my
reasoning is incorrect.

As I stood on the stony bank, I could see several native smokes to the
eastward. Determined to take advantage of any help extended to us by
Nature, to spare no pains in the all-important matter of finding water,
to let nothing pass that might assist us on our way, so that if it was
our fate to go under in the struggle I should not be assailed by the
thought that I had neglected opportunities, determined, in fact, always
to act for the best, so far as I could see it, I decided to make use of
this sign of the presence of natives, and altered our course in
consequence. We started due East and held on that course for eight miles,
Godfrey and Charlie lighting the spinifex at intervals. Some men have a
theory that the blacks signal by smokes, the appearance of which they
vary by using different grasses, branches, or leaves. That may be the
case in some parts; here, anyway, they are no more than hunting-fires, as
we later proved. If the desert blacks do go in for smoke-telegraphy they
must on this occasion have thought that the operator at our end of the
wire was mad! Perhaps unknowingly we sent up smokes which appeared to
them to be rational messages! If such was the case our signals could not
have meant "Please stay at home," for when eventually we did find their
camp they had left. Taking the bearing of the most northerly smoke we
travelled for the rest of the day in its direction. The next morning,
though the smoke had long since died down, we continued on our course and
in a few miles reached a large area of still smouldering spinifex. Around
this we searched for fresh tracks, and, having discovered some, made
camp. And now I have to chronicle the only occasion on which any one
disputed my orders. And this goes far to show that all I have said in
praise of the loyalty and untiring energy of my companions, is not meant
in empty compliment, but falls short of what they merit.

It was necessary for one to stay in camp and watch our belongings and the
camels, while the rest were engaged in tracking the natives. Our zeal was
so great that the camels were hardly, unloaded and hobbled before each
one had set out, and it followed that one must be sent back. For no
particular reason I fixed on Godfrey, who, instead of hailing with joy
the prospective rest, was most mutinous! The mutiny, however, was
short-lived, and ended in laughter when I pointed out how ridiculous his
objection was.

Charlie and I went in one direction, whilst Breaden and Warri took
another. Before long, so complicated were the tracks, we separated. A
more annoying job it is hard to imagine: round and round one goes
following a track in all its eccentric windings, running off at right
angles or turning back when its owner had chased a rat or a lizard; at
length there is a long stretch of straight walking and one thinks, "Now,
at last, he's done hunting and is making for home"; another disappointment
follows as one wheels round and finds one's self close to the
starting-point. Such was the experience this day of Breaden, Charlie,
and myself, and disgusted we returned to camp at sundown. Warri was so
late that I began to think he must have come upon the natives themselves,
who had given him too warm a welcome. Presently he appeared, slouching
along with an expressionless face, save for a twinkle in his eye
(literally eye, for one was wall-eyed). My supposition was more or less
correct; he had been fortunate in getting on the home-going tracks of
some gins; following these for several miles he came on their camp--so
suddenly that they nearly saw him. Luckily, he beat a hasty retreat,
doubtful of his reception, and hurried home.



The next morning we were up betimes and ready to start as soon as ever
the tracks were visible; presently a smoke, their first hunting-smoke of
the day, rose close to us. Despatching Charlie on Satan, and Godfrey on
foot, with instructions to catch a native if possible, I hastened along
the tracks followed by the rest of the party. We reached their camp just
in time to see the late inmates disappear into a thicket of mulga close
by. Neither Charlie nor Godfrey was able to come up with the lighters of
the fire unseen, and these, too, fled into the scrub, where chase was
almost impossible. Their camp deserves description, as it was the first
(excepting travelling camps) we had seen of the desert black-fellow.

Facing the belt of mulga, was a low wall of uprooted tussocks of spinifex
built in a half circle and some two feet high. On the leeward side of
this breakwind, inside the semi-circle, half a dozen little hollows were
scraped out in the sand. Between each of these nests lay a little
heap of ashes, the remains of a fire which burns all night, replenished
from time to time from a bundle of sticks kept handy for the purpose. The
nest in the sand is the bed, a double one, and not only double but
treble, and more; for in it, coiled up snugly, may lie several of the
tribe, higgledy-piggledy, like pups in a basket. The fire takes the place
of nightshirt, pyjamas, or blanket--a poor substitute on a cold night!
Scattered about were several utensils, two wooden coolimans full of water
and grass--this showing that the owners contemplated a journey, for the
grass floating on the surface is used to prevent the water from spilling.
Two more coolimans were filled with seed--a fine yellow seed from a plant
like groundsel. Close by these were the flat stones (of granite,
evidently traded from tribe to tribe) used for grinding the seed. In the
spinifex wall were stuck numerous spears, varying from eight to ten feet
in length, straight, thin, and light, hardened by fire, fined down and
scraped to a sharp point. Near these was a gin's yam-stick--a stout stick
with a sharp, flat point on one end and charred at the other, used for
digging up roots, stirring the fire, or chastising a dog or child. They
serve, too, as a weapon of defence. Quaintest of all these articles were
the native "portmanteaus," that is to say, bundles of treasures rolled
up in bark, wound round and round with string--string made from human
hair or from that of dingoes and opossums. In these "portmanteaus" are
found carved sticks, pieces of quartz, red ochre, feathers, and a number
of odds and ends. Of several that were in this camp I took two--my
curiosity and desire to further knowledge of human beings, so unknown and
so interesting, overcame my honesty, and since the owners had retired so
rudely I could not barter with them. Without doubt the meat-tins and odds
and ends that we left behind us have more than repaid them. One of these
portmanteaus may be seen in the British Museum, the other I have still,

Between the camp and the well, which we easily found, there ran a
well-beaten foot-pad, showing that this had been a favoured spot for some
time past. The well itself was situated in a belt of mulga-scrub, and
surrounded by a little patch of grass; growing near by, a few good camel
bushes, such as acacia and fern-tree (quondongs, by the way, were not
seen by us north of Alexander Spring, with the exception of one near
McPherson's Pillar); enclosing the scrub two parallel banks of sand and
stones, with the well in the valley between. Above the well, to the,
North, high anthills and tussocks of coarse grass appeared. The whole
oasis covered no more than three acres. The well itself resembled those
already described, and appeared to have a good supply, so much so that we
started at once to water the camels, which had had no drink since August
21st, a period of seventeen days, with the exception of two gallons
apiece at Warri Well, where the parakeelia grew.

By midnight all but three--Satan, Redleap, and Misery--had drunk as much
as they could hold. These three had to be content with a small amount,
for we could not get more without digging out the well, and this we
proceeded to do. The night was hot and cloudy, and constant puffs of wind
made work by the light of candles so impossible that we had perforce to
bear the extra heat of a blazing fire. The native well, as we found it,
had been scooped out with hand and cooliman, just large enough to allow
one to descend to a depth of fifteen feet, and the sides of the hole
plastered back with mud, which had baked hard. To follow this hole
further was not feasible, for going down on a slope as it did, any
further deepening would cause the sand to fall in; we had therefore to
start a new vertical shaft from the surface. After a considerable amount
of digging we reached water level, and were preparing to bail the water,
when with a thud the whole thing caved in, and our labour had to be
recommenced. At the time the wedge of ground fell in Godfrey was working
below and narrowly escaped being buried. A timely rope fortunately saved
him. I never saw a man come quicker out of a hole! Now we were a bit
puzzled. Our position was this: six camels were watered, three were not,
our tanks were empty (my fault, for I should have first filled them and
then the camels; but yet if we had water and the camels had none, would
we have been better off?); our well, containing X, an unknown quantity of
water, had fallen in. Query, whether to recommence digging, or to pack up
and follow the blacks? Now, the well might contain a good supply, or
yield no more than a gallon or two; and the blacks might or might not
have gone on to a good water. It was a puzzle. Finally we compromised,
and I sent Breaden and Warri to hunt up the tracks, whilst we started
work again. On one side of the well was rock, and by strengthening the
other by timber we hoped for success. Luckily plenty of good mulga trees
were handy, and we soon had the timber ready for use. This was the second
night without rest or food, and no more than a mouthful of water each,
for on arrival we had given what our tanks contained to the thirsty

By putting in crosspieces from side to side of the hole, which we soon
discovered to be an underground rock-hole, and by backing these with
twigs and grass, we managed to make the walls of sand secure, and at last
reached water level, and lost no time, as may well be imagined, in raising
a billyful and having the very best drink we had encountered for a long
time. At the moment almost Breaden and Warri returned, having done their
job admirably. They had followed the tracks to the next camp, away to the
North--a dry camp this--and, noticing the direction the blacks had taken,
returned home. After a feed and a rest we again set to work, and again
the well fell in, but with less danger this time. It was clear that we
could go no further without some sort of caisson to hold back the fine

Charlie, with his usual ingenuity, constructed a rough but serviceable
one out of the wooden guards on the faces of our water-casks and the
tin-lined box lids that we had taken from Hubbe's camp at Mount Allott.
Instinct had told us right--they were of use!

By this means we reached a depth of thirty feet, first sinking the
caisson, then bailing the water, then continuing the timber and backing.

The hole so narrowed at the bottom that the water could only be obtained
by stretching out a stick at arm's length, on which was lashed a small
saucepan. It soon became clear that, labour as we would, the hole would
yield but little, so, leaving the rest to work, I took Warri, and
continued the search for the natives from the point where Breaden had
left their tracks. After a long, tedious day of tracking, we found
ourselves back at our own camp. The natives--two bucks, two gins, and
three picaninnies--travelled North to a dry well, and there split, the
men going one way and the rest another. We chose the bucks to follow, and
presently the rest joined in, and the whole family swung round until
close to our camp. We could, by their tracks, see where they had herded
together in fear under a beefwood tree not one hundred yards from us.
Just before sunset we again set forth, taking Czar and Satan as
riding-camels, and were lucky in picking up tracks going in a fresh
direction before night fell.

We camped on the tracks, and ran them in the morning, noticing two
interesting things on the way: the first, several wooden sticks on which
were skewered dried fruits, not unlike gooseberries; these were hidden in
a bush, and are remarkable, for they not only show that the natives have
some forethought, but that they trade in edible goods as well as in
weapons and ornaments. These fruits are from the SOLANUM SODOMEUM, and
were only seen by us near the Sturt Creek (three hundred miles away). The
second, little heaps of the roots of a tree (known to me only as
pine-mulga [Probably a "Hakea."]) stacked together, which had been sucked
for water; we tried some, but without result, and the tree the natives
had made use of did not seem to be different from others of its kind.
This showed us, too, that they must be dry, and probably had had no water
since our arrival at their well. About midday we rode right on to their
camp without warning. Again the scrub befriended them, but in spite of
this I could have got ahead of them on Satan had his nose-line not
snapped. Determined not to be baulked, I jumped down and gave chase, old
Czar lumbering along behind, and Warri shouting with glee and excitement,
"Chase 'em--we catch ,em," as if we were going through all this trouble
for pleasure. Happy Warri! he never seemed to see gravity in anything. It
is almost incredible how quickly and completely a black-fellow can
disappear; as if in a moment the whole family was out of sight. One black
spot remained visible, and on it I centred my energies. Quickly
overhauling, I overtook it, and found it to be an old and hideous gin,
who, poor thing! had stopped behind to pick up some dingo puppies.

Sorry as I was to be rude to a lady, I had to make her prisoner, but not
without a deal of trouble. "Dah, dah, dah!" she shouted, scratching,
biting, spitting, and tearing me with her horrid long nails, and using, I
feel sure, the worst language that her tongue could command. I had to
carry this unsavoury object back to her camp, she clutching at every bush
we passed, when her hands were not engaged in clawing and scratching me.
After her anger had somewhat abated she pointed out a rock-hole from
which they had got their water. Securing the woman with a light rope, I
put her in Warri's charge, who kept watch above, lest the natives should
return and surprise us, whilst I descended the rock-hole to see what
supply was there. A little water was visible, which I quickly baled into
the canvas bags we had brought for the purpose. The bottom of the hole
was filled in with dead sticks, leaves, the rotting bodies of birds and
lizards, bones of rats and dingoes. Into this ghastly mass of filth I
sunk up to my middle, and never shall I forget the awful odour that arose
as my feet stirred up the mess. Nevertheless water was there, and
thankful I was to find it, even to drink it as it was. After half an
hour's work in this stinking pit, sick from the combination of
smells--distinguishable above every other being the all-pervading perfume
of aboriginals--I was rewarded by some twelve gallons of water, or, more
properly speaking, liquid.

I decided to take the gin back with us, as it had been clear to me for
some time past that without the aid of natives we could not hope to find
water. With our small caravan it was impossible to push on and trust to
chance, or hope to reach the settled country still nearly five hundred
miles ahead in a bee-line. Even supposing the camels could do this
enormous stage, it was beyond our power to carry sufficient water for
ourselves. The country might improve or might get worse; in such weather
as we now experienced no camel could go for more than a few days without
water. I felt myself justified, therefore, in unceremoniously making
captives from what wandering tribes we might fall in with. And in light
of after events I say unhesitatingly that, without having done so, and
without having to a small extent used rough treatment to some natives so
caught, we could not by any possibility have succeeded in crossing the
desert, and should not only have lost our own lives, but possibly those
of others who would have made search for us after. "A man arms himself
where his armour is weakest," so I have read; that, however, is not my
case. I am not justifying myself to myself, or defending a line of action
not yet assailed. I write this in answer to some who have unfavourably
criticised my methods, and to those I would say, "Put yourselves in our
position, and when sitting in a comfortable armchair at home, in the
centre of civilisation, do not, you who have never known want or suffered
hardship, be so ready to judge others who, hundreds of miles from their
fellow-men, threatened every day with possible death from thirst, were
doing their best to lay bare the hidden secrets of an unknown region, as
arid and desolate as any the world can show."

On starting back for camp the gin refused to walk or move in any way, so
we had to pack her on Czar, making her as comfortable as possible on
Warri's blankets, with disastrous results thereto. Arrived at camp, I
found that the rock-hole was bottomed, and now quite dry. Straining the
putrid water brought by me through a flannel shirt, boiling it, adding
ashes and Epsom salts, we concocted a serviceable beverage. This, blended
with the few gallons of muddy water from the well, formed our supply,
which we looked to augment under the guidance of the gin. After
completing our work the well presented the appearance of a large
rock-hole, thirty feet deep, conical in shape, of which one-half the
contents had been dug out. This confirmed my opinion that the native
wells of these regions are nothing more than holes in the bed-rock, which
have been covered over and in by the general deposit of sand. I had no
time to observe for latitude at this spot, the position of which is fixed
merely by dead reckoning. The rock-hole lies eight miles from it to the
S.E. by E., and has no guide whatever to its situation. I christened the
well "Patience Well," and I think it was well named.

From September 8th, 9 a.m., until September 12th, 12.30 a.m., we had
worked almost continuously, only taking in turn what sleep we could
snatch when one could be spared; and the result, 140 gallons as sum
total, inclusive of mud and other matter.

We left Patience Well on the 12th, at 10 a.m., taking the woman with us.
Breaden was the only one in whose charge she would consent to be at all
calm; to him therefore was allotted the duty of looking after her. At
eleven we reached the dry well to which Warri and I had tracked the
natives. The water we were forced to use was so uninviting that I decided
to make another effort to find a supply in this locality. The gin was of
no use whatever, and would only repeat whatever we said to her--"Gabbi,"
which King Billy had understood, was wasted on her. "Gabbi, gabbi," she
repeated, waving her arm all round the horizon. Leaving the rest to
bottom the dry well, which might have water lower down, Warri and I again
started off on the tracks of a buck, and these we followed due North on
foot for four and a half hours, hoping every moment to come on a well.
Soon after starting an apparently old track joined the other, and
together they marched still North. Presently the old tracks changed into
fresh ones, and close by I found two rough sandals made of strips of
bark. One I kept, the other was too nearly worn out. There was no change
in the dreary appearance of the country; through scrubs, over stones and
sand we held our way, until Warri, who was now a little way behind,
called, "No good, no more walk!" I could see the poor boy was knocked
up, and felt little better myself; to go on did not guarantee water, and
might end in disaster, so after a short rest we retraced our steps. The
night was now dark and oppressive, so hatless and shirtless we floundered
through the spinifex, nearly exhausted from the walk, following so close
on the last few days' work. I believe that but for Warri I should have
been "bushed "; my head was muddled, and the stars not too clear. What a
joyful sight met our eyes as we crested a rise of sand--a sight almost as
reviving as the food and water we so anxiously looked forward to. Tongues
of flame shot up in the air, a fire lit by our mates, but showing that,
in spite of Warri's instinct, we had not been walking in quite the right
direction. No welcome news greeted our arrival--the well was dry, and the
native obdurate. We all agreed she was useless, and since she refused all
forms of nutriment I feared she would die on our hands, so she regained
her liberty, and fled away with a rapidity not expected in one of her

My companions had felt some anxiety at our continued absence, and again I
had evidence of the cordial friendship existing between us.

With reference to the bark sandals, the use of which is not so far
known, I append an extract from "The Horn Scientific Expedition," Part
IV., where we read the following:

"Arunta Tribe.

"KURDAITCHA SHOES.--When a native for some reason desired to kill a
member of another camp or tribe, he consulted the medicine man of his
camp, and arrangements were made for a 'Kurdaitcha Luma.' . . . Both
medicine man and Kurdaitcha wore remarkable shoes. These had the form of
a long pad made of human hair, with numberless emu feathers intertwined,
and with a certain amount of human blood to act as a cementing substance.

" . . . Both ends of the shoes were rounded off, and were exactly similar
to one another, which has given rise to the erroneous idea that their
object was to prevent the wearer being tracked . . ."

But no other explanation is offered.

Breaden says tracks of a man wearing these emu-feather shoes are very
indistinct, but has no certain knowledge of their use. Warri, looking at
the bark sandals, said, "Black-fella wear 'em 'long a hot sand."
Questioned about the emu-feather shoes, he gave the usual answer, "I
dunno," and then added, probably to please me, as I had suggested the
explanation, "Black-fella no more see 'em track, I think."

It was clear that no good results were likely to follow further search in
this locality, for the tracks were so numerous, and crossed and recrossed
so often, that nothing could be made out of them. The country to the
North being so uninviting, I altered our course to North-East, and again
to North, when we sighted a smoke, and, following tracks, camped on them.

"Mud and oatmeal for breakfast," September 14th; truly the sage spoke who
remarked, "What does not fatten will fill." Such was our fare, and the
only doubt we had was lest the compound should be turned into brick by
the sun's heat! However, it was sustaining enough to last us all day,
occupied in tracking. Two dry wells, connected by a well-trodden pad half
a mile long, rewarded our labours; and here we had the conviction forced
upon us that the blacks themselves were hard pressed: we could see where
dust and dirt had been recently removed from the bottom of the wells,
both of which were over fifteen feet in depth, and one over twenty. Were
the natives hard pressed for water, or had they heard of our coming, and
were by smokes guiding us to empty wells? Unpleasant speculation, when
one's tanks contain nothing but a nasty brown liquid, and the country
looks as if it had not known rain for years!

September 15th. Another smoke to the North-East; again we steer for it,
as if following a will-o'-the-wisp. The continued semi-starvation, hard
work, and heat was beginning to leave its mark. None of our friends or
relatives would have recognised us now! Clothed in filthy rags, with
unkempt hair and beards, begrimed with mud, and burnt black by the sun
wherever its rays could penetrate our armour of dirt, we were indeed a
pretty lot. That night we tied the camels down--there was no feed for
them; besides, I wished them handy in the morning, for we could not be
far from natives now unless the smoke had deceived us. The next day the
desolation of the country was increased by vast areas of burnt ground,
from which rose clouds of dust and ashes--no gravel was here to arrest
the onslaught of the wind upon the sand. Towards evening we were doomed
to experience fresh discouragement, for in front of us, seen from rising
ground, there stretched ridge upon ridge of barren sand, black from the
charred remains of spinifex. To tackle those ridges in our then plight
meant grave risks to be run, and that night the responsibility of my
position weighed heavily upon my thoughts. I prayed for strength and
determination--for to each one of us must have come the thought of what
our fate might be. I feel sure that all were ready to face boldly
whatever was in store, and were resolved to do their utmost--and what
more can man do?

To go forward was our only course, since we meant to get through. Before
sunrise, black and weary we started, having fed on tinned vegetables,
the only article amongst our provisions possessing any moisture.

Before long we were amongst the ridges. What a desolate scene! Ridge upon
ridge of sand, black from the ashes of burnt spinifex. Not a sound or
sign of life, except the grunts of the camels as they strained up the
sandy slopes. Presently we sighted a newly lighted hunting smoke, not a
mile from us; with my field-glasses I could see the flames of the
fiercely burning spinifex lapping the crest of a high sand-ridge. Leaving
the tracks I was following I rejoined the main party, and, calling to
Charlie to accompany me, and to the others to follow us as fast as they
could, I set off for the fire. Having anticipated reaching the scene of
the smoke early this morning, we had divided up Czar's load amongst the
remainder of the caravan, and for the time transformed him into a
riding-camel, and so two of us were mounted. On nearer approach we pulled
up to give our steeds a blow, and, unseen ourselves, we watched the
natives hunting, all unsuspicious of the near presence of beings and
animals so strange in colour and form.

Advancing slowly from opposite directions, we were able to get within a
hundred yards of them before our silent approach was noticed. No words
can describe the look of terror and amazement on the faces of those wild
savages. Spellbound they crouched in the black and smouldering ashes of
the spinifex, mouths open and eyes staring, and then with one terrific
yell away they ran, dodging and doubling until a somewhat bushy beefwood
tree seemed to offer them means of escape. How many there had been I do
not know, but the tree harboured three, the man, woman, and child, that
we had first singled out. All kept up a ceaseless screaming and
gesticulating, reminding me of the monkey-house at the "Zoo"; but above
the others could be distinguished the voice of the old gin who, with
frantic haste, tried to screen the man with branches broken from their
tree of refuge, and who in the intervals between this occupation and that
of shaking a stick at us, set a light to the surrounding spinifex either
as a signal or with the hope of keeping us at a distance; for with all
her fear she had not let drop her firestick. Thinking that they would be
completely overawed by the appearance of the rest of the caravan, and so
make no further attempt to escape, we sat sentinel on our camels and
awaited the arrival of the main party. Presently they appeared, and the
trembling fear of the natives was painful to witness--never by any
possibility could they have seen camels or white men, though considering
the extent to which articles are passed from tribe to tribe, it is
probable they had heard of the "white-fella." Even to European eyes a
camel is not the canniest of beasts, and since these people had never
seen an animal larger than a dingo, and, indeed, no animal save this and
the spinifex rat, their surprise may well be imagined on seeing a thing
as large as their whole camp marching solemnly along.

Putting down the caravan we approached them, and from a mad, incoherent
yelling their protestations gradually died down to an occasional gulp
like that of a naughty child. Making soothing sounds and patting their
breasts and our own in turn, in sign of friendship, we had plenty of time
to inspect them. An old lady, with grizzled hair, toothless and distorted
in countenance, with legs and arms mere bones, and skin shrunken and
parched; a girl-child, perhaps six years old, by no means an ugly little
thing, and a youngish man made up the trio; all stark-naked, and
unadorned by artificial means, unless one excepts a powerfully scented
mixture of grease and ashes, with which their bodies were smeared. The
buck--poor fellow!--was suffering from some horrible skin disease, which
spread over his chest and back. He seemed to have but little power in his
arms, and a pitiful object he was, as we uncovered him from his screen of
branches. Having apparently satisfied them that it was not our intention
to eat them, by signs we showed them our pressing need for water--these
they readily understood--doubtless because their own daily experience is
one constant hunt for food or water. Evidently we had the former with us
in the shape of camels, therefore we could only want the latter. The
little child very soon showed great confidence, and, taking my hand, led
us over a neighbouring sand-ridge. The old lady took a great fancy to
Godfrey, and convinced us that flirting is by no means confined to

Leading us obliquely across the ridges we had just passed over, some two
miles from the scene of their hunting, they halted at their well. To the
North of it an almost barren ridge of sand rising to a height of perhaps
sixty feet, and running away East and West for possibly ten miles without
a break, from the crest of which we could see a limitless sea of ridges
as far as the eye could reach to the Northward (a cheerful prospect!), to
the South the undulating treeless desert of gravel we had just crossed.
Between the foot of the ridge and a stony slope the well was situated--the
usual little round hole in the sand--a small patch of roly-poly grass
making a slight difference in the appearance of the country immediately
surrounding the hole. As well as this roly-poly, we were delighted to see
a few scattered plants of parakeelia, and lost no time in unloading and
hobbling the camels, who in their turn made all haste to devour this
life-giving vegetation.

Camp made, we set to work on the well, sinking our boxes as before, our
black friends watching us with evident interest. Presently we heard a
shrill call, and, looking up, saw the rest of the family hesitating
between curiosity and fear. The old gin reassured them and they
approached--a man, a young mother with a baby at the breast, and two more
children. There were evidently more not far off who were too timid to
come on, as we heard calls from beyond the ridge. This buck was a fine,
upstanding fellow, very lithe and strong, though thin and small of
bone. Dressed in the fashionable desert costume of nothing at all,
excepting a band of string round his forehead, and a similar belt round
his waist, from which hung all round him the spoils of the chase, with a
spear in one hand and throwing-sticks in the other he looked a queer
figure in the setting sun--iguanas and lizards dangling head down from his
hair and his waist-string--indeed a novel way of carrying game. His lady
followed him with a cooliman under her arm, with a further supply of
reptiles and rats.

The whole family established themselves close to us. Their camp had been
near the crest of the ridge, but, apparently liking our company, they
shifted their household goods, and, starting a fire within twenty yards
of us, were soon engaged in cooking and eating their supper. The process
of preparing a meal is simple in the extreme. The rats are plucked (for
they do not skin the animal, but pluck the hair as we do feathers from a
chicken), and thrown on to a pile of hot wood-ashes with no further
preparation, and are greedily devoured red and bloody, and but barely
warm. A lizard or iguana calls for a further exercise of culinary
knowledge. First, a crooked twig is forced down the throat and the inside
pulled out, which dainty is thrown to any dog or child that happens to be
near; the reptile is then placed on hot coals until distended to the
utmost limit that the skin will bear without bursting, then it is placed
on ashes less hot, and covered with the same, and after a few minutes is
pronounced cooked and ready for the table. The old lady did the cooking,
and kept up an incessant chattering and swearing the while. We noticed
how kind they were to the poor diseased buck, giving him little tit-bits
of half-raw rat's flesh, which he greatly preferred to any food we fed
him. They were strange, primitive people, and yet kind and grateful. We
anointed the sick man's wounds with tar and oil (a mixture used for mange
in camels), and were well rewarded for our unsavoury task by his dog-like
looks of satisfaction and thanks. We had ample opportunity to watch them
at night, as our well-sinking operations kept us up. They seemed afraid
to sleep or lie down, and remained crouching together in their little
hollows in the sand until morning. To break the force of the wind, which
blew rather chilly, they had set up the usual spinifex fence, and between
each little hollow a small fire burnt. The stillness of the night was
only broken by the occasional cry of the baby, and this was immediately
suppressed by the mother in a novel manner, viz., by biting the infant's
ear--a remedy followed by almost immediate success. I beg to recommend
this exceedingly effective plan to any of my lady readers whose night's
rest is troubled by a teething child--doubtless the husband's bite would
have an equally good effect, but the poor baby's ears might suffer from a
combination of a strong jaw and a ruffled temper.

What a strange sound--that little picaninny's cry; surrounded as we were
by a boundless sea of sand, it made one think how small a speck our party
was on the face of the earth; it somehow took one's thoughts back to
civilisation and crowded cities, and one felt that it was not just very
certain if one would see such things again; and how little it would take
to wipe us out, like gnats squashed on a vast window-pane! In the morning
we sent the able-bodied man away to hunt, but his interest in us soon
overcame his desire for game, and he returned, and presently made himself
useful by carrying roots of bushes for our fire, for wood was hard to
get, and the nearest tree hardly in sight. I presented the buck with an
old pyjama jacket, and a great swell he thought himself too, strutting
about and showing himself off to the others. In exchange for numerous
articles they gave us, we attached coins round their necks, and on a
small round plate, which I cut out of a meat-tin, I stamped my initial
and the date, C. 1896. This I fixed on a light nickel chain and hung
round the neck of the good-looking young gin, to her intense
gratification. It will be interesting to know if ever this ornament is
seen again. I only hope some envious tribesman will not be tempted to
knock the poor thing on the head to possess himself of this shining

Amongst their treasures which they carried, wrapped up in bundles of bark
and hair, one of the most curious was a pearl oyster-shell, which was
worn by the buck as a sporran. Now this shell (which I have in my
possession) could only have come from the coast, a distance of nearly
five hundred miles, and must have been passed from hand to hand, and from
tribe to tribe. Other articles they had which I suppose were similarly
traded for, viz., an old iron tent-peg, the lid of a tin matchbox, and a
part of the ironwork of a saddle on which the stirrup-leathers hang. This
piece of iron was stamped A1; this, I fear, is hardly a sufficient clue
from which to trace its origin. Their weapons consisted of spears, barbed
and plain, brought to a sharp or broad point; woommeras, throwing-sticks,
and boomerangs of several shapes, also a bundle of fire-making implements,
consisting of two sticks about two feet long, the one hard and pointed,
the other softer, and near one end a round hollow, into which the hard
point fits. By giving a rapid rotary movement to the hard stick held
upright between the palms of the hands, a spark will before long be
generated in the hole in the other stick, which is kept in place on the
ground by the feet. By blowing on the spark, a little piece of dried
grass, stuck in a nick in the edge of the hollow, will be set alight and
the fire obtained.

As a matter of fact this method is not often used, since, when travelling
from camp to camp, a firestick or burning brand is carried and replaced
when nearly consumed. The gins sometimes carry two of these, one in front
and one behind, the flames pointing inwards; and with a baby sitting
straddle-legs over their neck and a cooliman under their arms make quite
a pretty picture.

Amongst the ornaments and decorations were several sporrans of curious
manufacture. Some were made up of tassels formed of the tufts of boody's
tails; other tassels were made from narrow strips of dog's skin (with the
hair left on) wound round short sticks; others were made in a similar
way, of what we conjectured to be bullock's hair. All the tassels were
hung on string of opossum or human hair, and two neat articles were
fashioned by stringing together red beans [Beans of the Erythrina] set in
spinifex gum, and other seeds from trees growing in a more Northerly
latitude. This again shows their trading habits. Here, too, were
portmanteaus, holding carved sticks of various shapes and patterns,
emu-plumes, nose-bones and nose-sticks, plaited bands of hair string, and
numerous other odds and ends.

In the evening we watered the camels, and lucky it was that the
parakeelia existed, and so satisfied them with its watery juice that they
were contented with very little, Satan and Misery not swallowing more
than two gallons each. Lucky indeed, because even with another night's
work we were only just able to get a sufficient supply to carry us on for
a few days, and but for the parakeelia either we or the camels would have
had to go short.

We did not completely exhaust the water in the well--not, I fear, because
we studied the convenience of the natives, but because our makeshift
appliances did not enable us to sink deeper. So we bade adieu to our
simple black friends, and set our faces to the sand-ridges. On leaving
camp in the morning I found a piece of candle lying on the ground. I
threw it to the buck, and he, evidently thinking it good to eat, put it
in his mouth, holding the wick in his fingers, and, drawing off the
tallow with his teeth, swallowed it with evident relish.



At this point I must ask pardon of the courteous reader for a seeming
digression, and interpolate a short account of Dr. Leichardt's lost
expedition--as to the fate of which nothing is known; and although no
apparent connection exists between it and this narrative, it may be that
in our journey we have happened on traces, and that the pieces of iron
mentioned in the last chapter may serve as some clue to its fate. On
arrival in civilisation I sent these iron relics, with some native
curios, to Mr. Panton, Police Magistrate, of Melbourne, Victoria, a
gentleman whose knowledge, and ability to speak with authority on matters
concerning Australian exploration is recognised as the highest.

When, therefore, Mr. Panton expresses the opinion that the tent-peg was
the property of Dr. Leichardt, one may be sure that he has good grounds
for his supposition. Whether Leichardt lost his life in the heart of this
wilderness or not, the complete mystery hiding his fate makes his history
sufficiently remarkable; and though I consider that there is little to
show that he ever reached a point so far across the continent, there is
no reason that he should not have done so, and I leave it for my readers
to form their own opinion.

Ludwig Leichardt, after carrying out successfully several journeys in
Queensland and the Northern Territory, undertook the gigantic task of
crossing Australia from East to West, viz., from Moreton Bay to the Swan
River Settlements.

Towards the end of 1847, accompanied by eight white men, two black-boys,
and provisions to last two years, he started, taking with him one hundred
and eighty sheep, two hundred and seventy goats, forty bullocks, fifteen
horses, and thirty mules. After travelling with little or no progress for
seven months, during which time the whole stock of cattle and sheep were
lost, the party returned. Not discouraged by this disastrous termination
to his scheme, Leichardt resolved on another expedition with the same
object in view.

Before many months he, with the same number of companions but with fewer
animals, set out again. On the 3rd of April, 1848, he wrote from
Fitzroy Downs, expressing hope and confidence as to the ultimate
success of the expedition. Since that date, neither tidings nor traces
have been found of the lost explorer, nor of any of his men or
belongings. Several search-parties were organised and a large reward
offered, but all in vain--and the scene of his disaster remains
undiscovered to this day. Many and various are the theories propounded
with regard to his fate. It is held by some that the whole party were
caught in the floods of the Cooper. This creek is now known to spread
out, after heavy rains at its source, to a width of between forty and
fifty miles. So heavy and sudden is the rain in semi-tropical Australia,
that a traveller may be surrounded by flood-waters, while not a drop of
local rain may fall. Leichardt, in those early days, would labour under
the disadvantage of knowing neither the seasons, nor the rainfall, and in
all likelihood would choose the valley of a creek to travel along, since
it would afford feed for his stock. It seems reasonable to suppose that a
flood alone could make so clean a sweep of men, cattle, and equipment
that even keen-eyed aboriginals have failed (so far as is known) to
discover any relics.

Another theory, and that held by Mr. Panton, is that the deserts of
Central and Western Australia hold the secret of his death. This theory
is based, I believe, on the fact that Gregory, in the fifties, found on
the Elsey Creek (North Australia) what he supposed to be the camp of a
white man. This in conjunction with some vague reports by natives would
point to Leichardt having travelled for the first part of his journey
considerably further north than was his original intention, with a view
to making use of the northern rivers. Supposing that his was the camp
seen on the Elsey, a tributary of the Victoria River, it would have been
necessary for him to alter his course to nearly due South-West to enable
him to reach the Swan River. This course would have taken him through the
heart of the desert, through the very country we now were in. For my part
I think that trade from tribe to tribe sufficiently accounts for the
presence of such articles as tent-pegs and pieces of iron, though
strangely enough an iron tent-peg is not commonly used nowadays, stakes
of wood being as serviceable, and none but a large expedition would be
burdened with the unnecessary weight of iron pegs.



My position for Family Well is lat. 22 degrees 40 minutes, long. 125
degrees 54 minutes. The well, as already stated, is situated at the foot
of the southern slope of a high sand-ridge. This ridge is the first of a
series of parallel banks of sand which extend, with occasional breaks,
from lat. 22 degrees 41 minutes to 19 degrees 20 minutes--a distance of
nearly 250 miles in a straight line. From September 16th to November 16th
we were never out of sight of a sand ridge, and during that time travelled
420 miles, taking into account all deviations consequent upon steering for
smokes and tracking up natives, giving an average of not quite seven miles
a day, including stoppages. This ghastly desert is somewhat broken in its
northern portion by the occurrence of sandstone tablelands, the Southesk
Tablelands; the southern part, however, viz., from lat. 22 degrees 41
minutes to lat. 20 degrees 45 minutes presents nothing to the eye but
ridge upon ridge of sand, running with the regularity of the drills in a
ploughed field. A vast, howling wilderness of high, spinifex-clad ridges
of red sand, so close together that in a day's march we crossed from sixty
to eighty ridges, so steep that often the camels had to crest them on
their knees, and so barren and destitute of vegetation (saving spinifex)
that one marvels how even camels could pick up a living. I estimate their
average vertical height from trough to crest at fifty to sixty feet. Some
were mere rises, whilst others reached a height of considerably over one
hundred feet. Sometimes the ridges would be a quarter of a mile apart,
and sometimes ridge succeeded ridge like the waves of the sea. On October
3rd, for instance, I find that we were crossing them at a rate of ten in
forty minutes. This gives a result of 105 ridges to be negotiated in a
day's march of seven hours. Riding was almost impossible in such country
as this, for all our energies were required to urge on the poor camels.
All through, we adhered to the same plan as before, viz., doing our day's
march without a halt (excepting of course the numerous stoppages entailed
by broken nose-lines, the disarrangement of a pack, or the collapse of a
camel), having no food or water from. daylight until camping-time. This,
without our previous training, would have been an almost impossible task,
for each ridge had to be climbed--there was no going round them or
picking out a low place, no tacking up the slope--straight ahead, up one
side, near the top a wrench and a snap, down goes a camel, away go the
nose-lines, a blow for the first and a knot for the second, over the
crest and down, then a few paces of flat going, then up again and down
again, and so on day after day. The heat was excessive--practically there
was no shade.

The difficulties of our journey were increased by the necessity of
crossing the ridges almost at right angles. With almost heart-breaking
regularity they kept their general trend of E. by N. and W. by S.,
causing us from our Northerly course to travel day after day against the
grain of the country. An Easterly or Westerly course would have been
infinitely less laborious, as in that case we could have travelled along
the bottom of the trough between two ridges for a great distance before
having to cross over any. The troughs and waves seem to be corrugations
in the surface of greater undulations; for during a day's march or so, on
reaching the top of one ridge, our view forwards was limited to the next
ridge, until a certain point was reached, from which we could see in
either direction; and from this point onwards the ridges sank before us
for a nearly equal distance, and then again they rose, each ridge higher
than the last. Words can give no conception of the ghastly desolation and
hopeless dreariness of the scene which meets one's eyes from the crest of
a high ridge. The barren appearance of the sand is only intensified by
the few sickly and shrunken gums that are dotted over it. In the troughs
occasional clumps of shrubs, or scrubs, [e.g., Mulga (ACACIA ANAEURA),
grevillea, hakea, ti-tree (MELALEUCA) and in the northern portion desert
oaks (CASUARINA DESCAINEANA)] or small trees are met with, and everywhere
are scattered tussocks of spinifex. True it is, though, that even this
poverty-stricken plant has its uses, for it serves to bind the sand and
keep the ridges, for the most part, compact. Where spinifex does not
grow, for instance on the tops of the ridges, one realises how impossible
a task it would be to travel for long over banks of loose sand.

I find that my estimate for the average height of the sand-ridges is
considerably lower than that of Colonel Warburton. It is interesting,
therefore, to compare his account of these ridges, though it must be
remembered that Colonel Warburton was travelling on a westerly course,
and we from our northerly direction only traversed country previously
seen by him, for the short distance that our sight would command, at the
point of intersection of our two tracks. In an editorial note in his book
we read:--

"They varied considerably both in their size and in their distance from
each other, but eighty feet may be regarded as an average in the former
respect and three hundred yards in the latter.

"They ran parallel to each other in an East and West direction, so that
while pursuing either of these courses the travellers kept in the
valleys, formed by two of them, and got along without much exertion. It
was when it became necessary to cross them at a great angle that the
strain on the camels proved severe, for on the slopes their feet sank
deeply into the sand, and their labours were most distressing to



On leaving Family Well it was suggested by Charlie and Godfrey that we
should take one of our native friends with us. No doubt this would have
been the most sensible plan, and would have saved us much trouble.
However, I did not care to take either of the females, the sick man was
evidently of no use to us, and it was pretty evident that the sound buck
was the chief hunter, and that without him, the little tribe would be
hard pressed to find food. As we were not in absolute need of water for a
few days to come, I decided to leave the family in quiet enjoyment of
their accustomed surroundings. I had now given up all hope of finding any
other than desert country ahead of us, and had no longer any other
purpose than that of traversing the region that lay between us and
"white settlements" with as little harm to ourselves and our camels as
care and caution could command. Our course was now North-East, as it was
necessary to make more easting to bring us near the longitude of Hall's
Creek. We continued for three days on this course, the ridges running due
East and West. The usual vegetation was to be seen, relieved by
occasional patches of a low, white plant having the scent of lavender.
This little plant grew chiefly on the southern slope of the ridges, and
was seen by us in no other locality. A specimen brought home by me was
identified at Kew Gardens as a new variety of Dicrastylis, and has been

Large tracts of burnt country had to be crossed from which clouds of dust
and ashes were continually rising, blown up by "Willy-Willies" (spiral
winds). These were most deceptive, it being very hard to distinguish
between them and hunting-smokes. After one or two disappointments we were
able to determine, from a distance, the nature of these clouds of black
dust. On the 22nd we turned due East towards some smokes and what
appeared to be a range of hills beyond them. The smokes, however, turned
out to be dust-storms, and the range to be immense sandhills. Here we saw
the first desert oak, standing solitary sentinel on the crest of a ridge.
Around the burnt ground several old tracks were visible, some of which we
followed, but with no better result than two dry rock-holes and a dry
native well one mile from them. Near the latter was an old native camp,
in which we found several small, pointed sticks, so planed as to leave a
bunch of shavings on the end. I have seen similar sticks stuck up on
native graves near Coolgardie, but have no idea of their proper
significance. Probably they are merely ornaments.

A line of cliffs next met our view, and to them we turned. These were
higher rocks or hills than we had seen for some time, and presented
rather a remarkable appearance. Formed of a conglomerate of sandstone and
round ironstone pebbles, they stood up like a wall on the top of a long
slope of easy grade, covered with gravel and loose pebbles. At the foot
lay boulders great and small, in detached heaps like so many pieces
broken from a giant plum-pudding. In the face of the cliffs were numerous
holes and caves, the floors of which gave ample evidence of the presence
of bats and wallabies. Of these latter we saw several, but could not get
a shot; careful exploration of these caves, on hands and knees, led to
the finding of a fair-sized rock-hole, unfortunately quite dry. I have no
doubt that these wallabies, like the spinifex rats, are so constituted
that water is not to them a necessity, and that the spinifex roots
afford sufficient moisture to keep them alive. We saw no traces of
spinifex rats at any of the wells we found, nor did we see any water
which they could reach or from which, having reached it, they could climb
up again to the surface. From the top of the cliffs an extensive view to
the South and North was obtained. But such a view! With powerful
field-glasses nothing could be seen but ridge succeeding ridge, as if the
whole country had been combed with a mammoth comb. From these points of
the compass the cliffs must be visible for a considerable distance. Their
rather remarkable appearance made me think them worth naming, so they
were christened "Wilson's Cliffs," after my old friend and partner.

The entry in my diary for the 25th would stand for many other days. It
runs: "Most wretched sand-ridge country, ridges East and West, and
timbered with very occasional stunted gums--extensive patches of bare,
burnt country with clouds of dust. Absolutely no feed for camels--or for
any other animal for that matter."

Such miserable country beggars description. Nothing is more heartrending
than to be forced to camp night after night with the knowledge that one's
poor animals are wandering vainly in search of feed. To tie them down
would have given them some rest, but at the same time it entailed their
certain starvation; whilst, wandering about, they stood some chance of
picking up a mouthful or two. How anxiously each ridge was scanned when
camping-time drew near--no feed--on again another ridge or two, no
feed--just one more ridge, and, alas! "no feed" is again the cry. So we
camped perforce without it, and often the famished camels would wander
two or three miles in the night in search of it, and this meant an extra
walk to recover them in the morning.

On the morning of the 27th Warri brought in all the camels but one, with
a message from Breaden that Misery was dying. Small wonder if all had
been in the same state, for we were now eight days from the last water,
and tough as camels are they cannot go waterless and foodless for very
many days in such trying country as this. Poor old Misery! This was sad
news indeed, but all that could be done to save him should be done.

This morning a smoke rose due West of us. We had seen so few signs of
natives lately that we could not afford to neglect this, even though it
was so far from our proper course.

By the time we had loaded the camels and distributed his load amongst the
rest, Breaden brought Misery into camp, and when we started, followed
with him behind us, coaxing him along as best he could. Eight miles
brought us into the region of the burning spinifex and fresh tracks;
despatching Charlie on Satan, and Godfrey and Warri on foot, to track up
and catch a native if possible, I unloaded the camels and awaited
Breaden's arrival. Presently he came alone, saying that poor Misery was
done for and could move no further, so he had left him. I felt sure that
that was the case, since Breaden would not have come without him if there
had been any possibility of getting him further. Nevertheless, I could
not bear to leave my faithful and favourite camel to die by slow degrees,
and returned on Breaden's tracks. I took with me a brandy-bottle full of
Epsom salts and water, for from Breaden's account of his way of going on
I felt sure that poor Misery had eaten some poisonous plant. Four miles
back I found him lying apparently dead in the shade of a tree, or where
the shade would have been had there been any foliage; he knew me and
looked up when I spoke to and patted him, and rested his head in my lap
as I sat down beside him; but no amount of coaxing could get him on his
legs. Having administered the salts, which he evidently enjoyed, I
proceeded to bleed him by slitting his ear; my knife, however, was not
sharp enough, (for everything becomes dulled in this sand) to do the job
properly, and he bled but little. I could do nothing but wait, so taking
a diminutive edition of Thackeray from my pocket, for I had foreseen this
long wait, I read a chapter from "Vanity Fair." Presently I got him on
his legs and he walked for about thirty yards, then down he went in a
heap on the ground; another wait, and more "Vanity Fair." Then on again,
and down again, and so on hour after hour. Soon nothing but brutal
treatment would make him stir, so I hardened my heart and used a stick
without mercy. What a brute I felt as he turned his great eyes
reproachfully upon me! "Never mind, Misery, old chap, it must be done to
save your life!" At last I reached a ridge within one hundred yards of
the camp, and here Breaden met me, bringing with him four gallons of
water and the welcome news that the others had captured two bucks who had
shown a well three miles north.

This water saved Misery's life, and was just in time. We reached camp as
the camels were reloaded and ready to start for the well under the
guidance of the two bucks. Both of these were fair-sized men, and one
stood six feet at least, though from the method of doing the hair in a
bunch at the top of the head they appear taller than they really are.
Godfrey and Warri had tracked them right into their camp and surprised a
family of numerous gins, young and old, several picaninnies, and three
bucks, one of whom was stone blind. They were preparing their evening
meal, and amongst the spoils of the chase there were opossums, whose
tracks on one of two large gum-trees not far off we afterwards saw. I had
always associated opossums with good country; however, here they were. Of
the natives, some fled as soon as Godfrey and Warri approached, whilst
the men were uncommonly anxious to dispute this unceremonious visit to
their camp. They were on the point of active hostilities when Charlie
rode up on Satan, and they then thought better of it. Even so they were
not persuaded to accompany the white men back to camp without
considerable difficulty. The smaller man managed to escape; the other we
afterwards christened Sir John, because he was so anxious to make us dig
out old dry wells, so that presumably they should be ready for the next
rain. There seemed to us to exist a certain similarity between his views
and those of the Government, which is ever ready to make use of the
pioneer's labours where it might be justly expected to expend its own.

This fellow was most entertaining, and took a great interest in all our
belongings. I, coming last, seemed to excite keen delight, though he was
naturally a little shy of his captors; he patted me on the chest, felt my
shirt and arms, and was greatly taken by a tattoo on one of them.
Grinning like any two Cheshire cats, he showed his approval by "clicking"
his tongue with a side shake of the head, at the same time snapping his
thumb and finger. Breaden, too, came in for Sir John's approval, and was
similarly patted and pulled about.

Godfrey had taken a rather handy-looking tomahawk from the buck, made
from the half of a horseshoe, one point of which was ground to a pretty
sharp edge--a primitive weapon, but distinctly serviceable. Unlike our
friend at Family Well, this man had not even a shell to wear, and beyond
an unpleasantly scented mixture of fat and ashes, with which he was
smeared, was hampered by no sort of clothing whatever. As usual, he was
scarred on the chest and forehead, and wore his hair in a mop, held back
by a band of string. His teeth were a picture, not only clean and white,
which is usual, but uncommonly small and sharp, as one of us found!
Leaving him to the main party to take on to the well, I and Warri
remained behind to bring Misery on--and a nice job we had too. I thought
of waiting and packing water back to him, but in that case he would have
fallen an easy victim to the natives, who were bound to be prowling
about, nor could one of us be spared to watch him. So he had to be beaten
and hauled and dragged, by stages of twenty yards at a time, over the
ridges. After darkness fell we had to follow the tracks with a firestick
until we had the fire at camp to guide us. This we reached about 9.30
p.m., fairly tired out, but satisfied that the poor, patient sufferer's
life was saved. The others had already started work on the well, but
knocked off when I got back, and we had a good feed and a short rest. Sir
John was much distressed at his party having taken away all their food
when they retreated, and was hardly consoled by what we gave him.
Tethered to a ti-tree, with a little fire to cheer him, he was apparently
happy enough.

The rest of the night we worked at the well in shifts, and Charlie and I,
the first shift, started off soon after daybreak with the buck to find
more water, for it was evident that our present supply was insufficient.
We felt pretty certain from the way the tribe had left that another well
existed close by; the question was, would our captive show it? He started
in great glee and at a great pace, carrying behind him, like a
"back-board," a light stick. This will be found to open the lungs and
make a long walk less fatiguing, except for the strain on the arms.
Occasionally he would stop and bind strips of bark round his ankles and
below the knee. "Gabbi" was just over the next ridge, he assured us by
signs--it was always "the next ridge"--until when nearly ten miles from
camp we saw a smoke rise ahead of us, but so far away that we could do no
good by going on. However, we had gained something by locating a fresh
camp, so started homewards, the buck becoming most obstreperous when he
saw our change of plan, for he made it clear by signs that the gins
(indicating their breasts by covering his own with his hands) and the
blind man (pointing to his own closed eyes and making a crooked track in
the sand) and the rest, had circled round and gone to the camp from which
we could see the smoke rising. However, he could not escape and soon gave
in, and followed reluctantly behind, dragging at the rope.

Walking was bad enough, but this extra exertion was rather too much.
Besides, we were sadly in need of sleep; so, taking advantage of what
little shade we could find by following round the shadow of a gum tree as
the sun moved, Charlie slept whilst I watched our black friend, and then
I did the same. On arrival at camp we found that our companions had been
so successful in "soak-sucking," i.e., baling and scraping up the
miserable trickle of water as it soaks into the "caisson," that by
sunset we were able to give the camels eight gallons each, and two
gallons extra to Misery, who was showing signs of a rapid recovery.
Luckily there was a little patch of dry herbage not far from the well,
and a few acacias over the ridge. All the next day we were occupied in
"soak-sucking," and Warri went back for Misery's saddle, which had been
thrown off. I took the opportunity of writing up my diary--anything but a
pleasant job, for shade there was none, except in a reclining position
under our solitary ti-tree bush. The native's close proximity and the
swarm of flies, made the task quite hateful, for under the most
favourable conditions there are few things I dislike more than writing.
On September 28th I chronicled a most remarkable fact, viz., that the two
camels Satan and Redleap had had no more than thirteen gallons of water
in the preceding thirty-eight days--a wonderful exhibition of endurance
and pluck in this burning weather and barren country. It came about in
this way:--

August 22nd. At Woodhouse Lagoon they had a full drink in the morning.

August 29th. At Warri Well, where the parakeelia grew, two gallons in the

September 8th. At Patience Well they were the last to be watered, eight
gallons in the evening.

September 18th. At Family Well, parakeelia again, three gallons at night.

September 28th. Half a drink.

Therefore between the 22nd of August and the 28th of September they had
no more than thirteen gallons.

Satan had more travelling, though carrying a less load, than any of the
rest, being used for scouting and finding natives.

On the evening of the 29th I left my work down the well to take some
observations; unluckily I was just too late for the stars I wanted, and
had to wait up for some long time. We had divided the night into five
shifts for baling; when my turn came my companions did not wake me, but
did my shift for me. I am sure I appreciated their kindly thought, and
felt thankful indeed, and not for the first time, that I had managed to
choose such excellent mates--for I had long realised that without peace
and unanimity in such a party, our chances of getting through the desert
would be greatly minimised.

I found our position to be lat. 21 degrees 49 minutes, long. 126 degrees
33 minutes.

By morning we had given the camels another five gallons apiece and had
some to go on with in our tanks, having, by working for two days and
three nights, scraped together 140 gallons in all. On the 30th we
travelled again Westwards, though making some Northerly progress towards
the smoke which Charlie and I had located. We had a long talk about our
methods of travelling, and Charlie thought that I was inclined to spare
the camels at the expense of ourselves. We travelled all day without a
break so that they should have the longer to look for feed at night, then
we always hunted for tracks and water on foot, and when we found water,
gave it to the camels before looking after our own wants, and he thought
we might do longer stages straight ahead so long as we had a native. I
held, and I think the outcome of the journey proved me correct, that our
own well-being was a secondary consideration to that of our animals, for
without them we should be lost. "Slow but sure" was my motto.

Though anxious to make as much northing as possible I did not feel
justified in passing by almost certain water for the sake of a few hours.
I felt always that we might come into an even more waterless region
ahead, and perhaps be unable to find any natives. Some twelve miles
brought us to the well--the smoke had been beyond it--and a more wretched
spot I never saw. Absolutely barren, even of spinifex, were the high
ridges of sand between which was the well--merely a small, round hole,
with no signs of moisture or plant life about it, not a tree "within
cooee." We had to go far to collect enough wood for a fire, and cut two
sticks with which to rig up a fly to shade us from the sun--a purely
imaginary shade, for light duck is of little use against the power of
such a burning sun; but even the shadow cast by the fly gave an
appearance of comfort.

At this camp we made two new caissons, as our old tin-lined boxes were no
longer strong enough. Amongst our gear were two galvanised-iron boxes,
made to order, with lids which completely covered the boxes and were held
on by straps. "Concertina-made boxes" they were called by the
tinsmith--a name which gave rise to a curious misstatement in a Perth
paper which published a letter I wrote to Sir John Forrest. The letter
read: ". . . We made boxes out of concertinas"! I fear any who read
this must have thought me fairly good at "romancing." I had them made
that shape so that they might be filled to nearly double the capacity of
the boxes and still have serviceable lids. I had hoped to have filled
them with specimens of plants and birds. Unfortunately we had neither the
time to, nor the opportunity of making any such collection, though we
might easily have filled them with specimens of the desert house-fly
which swarm at every well! By sawing off the ends of these lids we had
two useful boxes, with neither top nor bottom, and by screwing them on
to a framework of wood we manufactured a most useful caisson, 2 feet deep
by 1 1/2 long and 1 foot wide. By forcing this into the sand in the well
and digging out the sand contained in it, and then patiently waiting with
a pannikin for the small trickle of water creeping in from between the
outside of the caisson and the sides of the rock-hole, then again forcing
the box lower, and clearing out the sand above, now drained of its
moisture, and repeating the baling process, we were enabled to drain the
well of almost every drop it contained. On first acquaintance with these
wells a novice's impulse would be to dig out the sand until the bottom
was reached; but as the sand holds the water he would find himself with a
nicely cleared hole, but cleared of sand and water alike. Therefore,
without some such makeshift as that already described one would be in the
most unsatisfactory position of knowing that water existed, and yet of
being unable to obtain any but a very small supply. The natives use
comparatively little water, since it is only for drinking purposes,
washing being unknown, and as the water sinks in the well the sand is
scooped out gradually and carefully and plastered round the sides of the
hole, so preventing the inrush of sand. Very often when they require a
drink they bend down and suck up the water through a bunch of grass,
which prevents the sand from getting into the mouth.

The water from the wells was always bad, and on first being brought to
the surface was hardly fit to use; the camels would not, unless really
dry, drink it until it had been exposed in our canvas troughs to the air
for some time. Lying stagnant perhaps for a year or more, protected by
the sand, it is not to be wondered at that its flavour is not of the
best. Digging in the sand discloses all sorts of odds and ends that could
not fail to contaminate the water. It contains also--derived, I suppose,
from the sandstone--a certain amount of iron, which I believe to have
acted as a sort of tonic to us. A many-tinted, bluish scum always floated
on the surface and tea made with it turned as black as ink--nevertheless
it was quite good drinking.

October 1st and 2nd we spent at the well, working as above described,
whilst Warri tended the camels a couple of miles away on a patch of weeds
he discovered. This weed which I have mentioned is the only available
feed in this region--without it the camels must have starved long since.
The plant somewhat resembles a thistle, but has a small blue flower, and
when fresh forms the best feed. So far, however, we had only seen it dry
and shrivelled. It is known to science as TRICHODESMA ZEYLANICUM. This
camp was the scene of a vicious onslaught on Charlie, made by the buck,
whilst away looking for the plant from which to make a chewing-ball.
Taking Charlie unawares he nearly accomplished his escape. Charlie, as it
happened, was the very worst to try such tricks on, for he
was the strongest of the party, and a very powerful man. During the
struggle the black-fellow grabbed Charlie's revolver pouch, and somehow
the revolver exploded, the bullet narrowly missing them both. It had the
useful effect of attracting our attention, and we were in time to save
Charlie some nasty wounds, as the buck was using his powerful jaws to
great advantage. Of course we could not blame him for trying to
escape--that was only natural--but it made us more cautious in the
future. Excepting the inconvenience of being unable to get away, he
had nothing to complain of, and had the advantage of plenty to eat
and drink without the trouble of looking for it. The manufacture of
the "quid" mentioned above is interesting. Cleaning and smoothing a
place in the sand, a small branch from a silvery-leafed ti-tree
(a grevillea, I think), is set alight and held up; from it as it
burns a light, white, very fine ash falls on to the prepared ground. Now
the stems of a small plant already chewed are mixed with the ashes. The
compound so formed is squeezed and pressed and kneaded into a small,
oval-shaped ball, of sticky and stringy consistency. The ball when in use
is chewed and sucked but not swallowed, and is passed round from mouth to
mouth; when not in use it is placed behind the ear, where it is carried.
Nearly every tribe we saw had such "quids." No doubt they derive some
sustenance from them. Sir John preferred his "chew" to any food we gave
him; though he did not care about tobacco.

For the next two days the sand-ridges seemed to vie with each other in
their height and steepness, between them there was hardly any flat ground
at all; mile after mile we travelled, up one and down and over the next
without ceasing. First came the native and his guard, then in a long,
broken line the string of camels. What a labour it was! Often each camel
had to be urged in turn over the ridge whilst those behind were
continually breaking their nose-lines to lie down or hurry off to the
nearest shade, however scanty, and there await the blows and exhortations
of their driver; those which remained in their places were continually
lifting their feet, for they could not stay still on the burning sand;
then their packs were always being jolted about and thrown out of place,
necessitating reloading, and when at last we had them again in line the
whole performance had to be repeated a few ridges further on.

Sometimes our caravan would cover half a mile or more, the guide and
guardian waiting far in advance whilst the broken line was rejoined and
the stragglers brought in, and away far behind the last camel would
appear alone, with his nose-line dangling and tripping him up. Usually
Billy brought up the rear--nothing would induce him to follow close
behind; a jerk of his head and away went the nose-line, and Billy was
left behind to follow when so inclined. The heat was really tremendous.
It can be fairly sultry around Coolgardie, but never before have I
experienced such scorching heat; the sun rose like a ball of fire, and in
two hours' time had as great power as at any period during the day. How
one prayed for it to set, and how thankful one was when in due course it
did so, sinking below the horizon as suddenly as it had risen!

I am not sure which felt the heat most, poor little Val or the buck. He,
curiously enough, seemed more affected by it than we were. At night he
drank more than we did, and then was not satisfied. Sometimes when
waiting on ahead he used to squat down and scoop out a hole in the ground
to reach the cool sand beneath; with this he would anoint himself.
Sometimes he would make a mixture of sand and urine, with which he would
smear his head or body. Poor Val was in a pitiable state; the soles of
her paws were worn off by the hot sand; it was worse or as bad for her to
be knocked about on the top of one of the loads, and although by careful
judgment she could often trot along in the shade of one of the camels,
she was as near going mad as I imagine it possible for a dog to go. Poor
little thing! She used to yell and howl most agonisingly, with her eyes
staring and tongue hanging. We had, of course, to pack her on a camel
when her feet gave out, and by applying vaseline alleviated her pain.

Our guide took us to two dry wells and watched our disgust with evident
satisfaction, and I had to resort to the unfailing argument of allowing
him no water at all. He pleaded hard by sounds and gesture and no doubt
suffered to some extent, but all was treated as if unnoticed by us.
Thirst is a terrible thing; it is also a great quickener of the wits, and
the result of this harsh treatment, which reduced the poor buck to tears
(a most uncommon thing amongst natives), was that before very long we
were enabled to unload and make camp in one of the most charming little
spots I have ever seen. A veritable oasis, though diminutive in size; but
not so in importance, for without its life-giving aid it is hard to say
how things would have gone with us. The weather, as I have said, was
scorching, the country destitute of feed, almost waterless, most toilsome
to cross, and our camels were worn to skeletons from starvation and
incessant work, and had they not been fine specimens of an exceptionally
fine breed must have long since succumbed. Surely this is one of the
noblest of creatures and most marvellous works of the Creator!

Brave, dumb heroes, with what patience and undaunted courage do they
struggle on with their heavy loads, carrying what no other animal could
carry in country where no other could live, never complaining or giving
in until they drop from sheer exhaustion! I think there are few animals
endowed with more good qualities than the much-abused camel--abused not
only by the ignorant, which is excusable, but by travellers and writers
who should know better. Patience, perseverance, intelligence, docility,
and good temper under the most trying conditions, stand out pre-eminently
amongst his virtues. Not that all camels are perfect--some are vicious and
bad tempered; so far as my experience goes these are the exceptions. Some
few are vicious naturally, but the majority of bad-tempered camels are
made so by ill-treatment. If a camel is constantly bullied, he will
patiently wait his chance and take his revenge--and pick the right man
too. "Vice or bad temper," says the indignant victim; "Intelligence,"
say I. In matters of loading and saddling, ignorance causes great
suffering to camels. I can imagine few things more uncomfortable than
having to carry 150 pounds on one side of the saddle and perhaps 250
pounds on the other, and yet if the poor beast lies down and complains,
in nine cases out of ten his intelligent master will beat him
unmercifully as a useless brute! Nearly every sore back amongst a mob of
camels is the result of carelessness. It is hard to avoid, I am well
aware, but it can be done; and I speak as an authority, for during our
journey to Kimberley and the journey back again, over such country as I
have endeavoured faithfully to describe, there were only two cases of
camels with sore backs--one was Billy, who had an improperly healed wound
when we started, which, however, we soon cured; the other Stoddy, on the
return journey. This state of affairs was not brought about except by
bestowing great care and attention on the saddles, which we were
continually altering, as they were worn out of shape, or as the camels
became thinner--and thin they were, poor things, tucked up like
greyhounds! A few days' rest and feed, fortunately soon puts a camel
right, and such they could have at the little oasis we had reached on
October 5th. In the centre of it lay a splendid little spring, in many
ways the most remarkable feature we had encountered, and therefore I
christened it after one whose love and helpful sympathy in all my work,
has given me strength and courage--my sister Helena.



"My native valley hath a thousand springs, but not to one of them shall I
attach hereafter, such precious recollections as to this solitary fount,
which bestows its liquid treasures where they are not only delightful,
but nearly indispensable."

So spake Sir Kenneth of Scotland in "The Talisman."

Surely the Christian knight, dragging his way across the sands of
Palestine, was not more pleased to reach the "Diamond of the Desert"
than we were to light upon this charming little oasis, hidden away in the
dreary solitude of the surrounding sandhills; the one spot of green on
which one's eyes may rest with pleasure in all this naked wilderness. At
the bottom of a hollow enclosed between two sand-ridges is a small
surface outcrop of limestone of similar character to that in which
Empress Spring is situated. In this is a little basin, nearly circular,
about 2 feet 6 inches in diameter and 3 feet deep, with a capacity of
about seventy gallons. This is the spring, fed at the bottom of the basin
from some subterranean source by a narrow tunnel in the rock, a natural
drain, not six inches in diameter. Through this passage, from the West,
the water rises, filling the rocky basin, and evidently at some seasons
bubbling over and filling the clay-pan which abuts on it on the Western
side. On the East side of the spring is an open space of sand;
surrounding it and the clay-pan is a luxuriant growth of pig-face--a
finger-like plant, soft, squashy, and full of moisture, but salt; it is
commonly seen on the margin of salt-lakes. Beyond the pig-face, tussocks
of grass and buck-bush, beyond that again a mass of ti-tree scrub
extending to the foot of the sandhills. On the inner slopes of these can
be seen the crowning glory of the spot viz., an abundance of splendid
green thistle (TRICHODESMA ZEYLANICUM), tall and juicy, growing amongst
acacia and other bushes. Outside this, beyond this area of perhaps four
hundred yards in diameter, stretching away to the horizon, ridge upon
ridge of desolate sand, black and begrimed by the ashes of recently
burnt spinifex, from which the charred stumps of occasional gum trees
point branchless to the sky. What chance of finding such a place without
the help of those natives to whom alone its existence was known?

The winds and storms of past years had filled in the basin with sand and
leaves, and except for the extraordinary freshness and abundance of
vegetation around it, its peculiar situation, and the absence of the
usual accompaniments to rock-holes, such as heaps of sticks and stones
which, having served their purpose of protecting the water from
evaporation, have been removed and thrown aside by the natives, there was
nothing at first sight to lead one to suppose that any further supply
existed than was visible in this natural reservoir. This small amount
soon vanished down the throats of the thirsty camels; it was then that,
having cleared out the sand and leaves, we discovered the small passage
through which the spring rises. By continual baling until all the camels
were satisfied (and of this splendid spring water they drank a more than
ordinary amount) we kept the water back to the mouth of the passage.
Within an hour or so of the watering of the last camel, the hole was
again full to the brim, of the most crystal-clear water. How we revelled
in it! What baths we had--the first since we left Woodhouse Lagoon over
seven weeks back! What a joy this was, those only can understand who,
like us, have been for weeks with no better wash than a mouthful of water
squirted into the hands and so rubbed over the face. Whenever possible
Godfrey, who made our damper (bread), washed his hands in the corner of a
dish, which was used by each in turn afterwards--and at our work in the
wells, a certain amount of dirt was washed off. But to splash about with
an unlimited number of buckets of water ready to hand, to be got by the
simple dipping of a billy-can--this was joy indeed! This luxury we
enjoyed from October 5th to October 10th, and every day the camels were
brought to water, and with this and the green feed visibly fattened
before our eyes.

So soon as we had proved the supply of our new watering-place, I had
intended giving our guide his liberty. However, he forestalled this by
cleverly making his escape. For want of a tree, his chain had been
secured to the iron ring of a heavy pack-bag. His food and water were
given him in empty meat-tins. With the sharp edge of one of these he had
worked so industriously during the night that by morning he had a neat
little circle of leather cut out of the bag round the ring.

With a blanket on which he had been lying, he covered his cunning trick
and awaited his opportunity. It soon came; when our attention was fixed
on the building of a shade, and, in broad daylight, he sneaked away from
us without a sign or sound, taking with him some three feet of light
chain on his ankle. What a hero he must be thought by his
fellow-tribesmen! and doubtless that chain, which he could easily break
on a stone with an iron tomahawk, will be treasured for many years to
come. Had he not been in such a hurry he would have returned to his
family laden with presents, for we had set aside several articles
designed for him.

Our camp was specially built to protect us from the flies, and consisted
of a framework of ti-tree poles and branches, roofed with grass and
pig-face; under this we slung our mosquito-nets and enjoyed perfect
peace. A few days in camp are by no means idle ones, for numerous are the
jobs to be done--washing and mending clothes, patching up boots and hats,
hair cutting, diary writing, plotting our course, arranging photograph
plates (the majority of which were, alas! spoilt by the heat), mending a
camera cracked by the sun, making hobble-straps, mending and stuffing
saddles, rearranging packs cleaning firearms, and other like occupations.
The heat was extreme; too great for my little thermometer which
registered up to 140 (degrees) F., and intensified by hot winds and
"Willy-Willies" (sometimes of great violence), which greatly endangered
our camp. Godfrey excelled himself in the cooking department, and our
usual diet of "tinned dog" was agreeably varied by small pigeons, which
came in numbers to drink--pretty little slate-grey birds with tufts on
their heads, common enough in Australia. Of these we shot over fifty, and,
as well, a few of the larger bronzewing pigeons. The tufted birds come to
water just after daylight and just before sundown, and so are more easily
shot than the bronzewing. Throughout the day, galahs, wee-jugglers,
parakeets, diamond-sparrows, and an occasional hawk or crow, came to the
spring, evidently a favourite resort. Curiously enough, but few native
camps were to be seen, nor is this the first time that I have noticed that
the best waters are least used. The Australian aboriginal is not usually
credited with much thought for the morrow. These desert people, however,
have some provident habits, for first the small native wells are used, and
only when these are exhausted are the more permanent waters resorted to.
As an instance of their powers of following a "spoor," it may be
mentioned that on several occasions our captive suddenly darted off at a
tangent with eyes to ground, and then started digging his heel in the sand
to find where a lizard or iguana was that he had tracked to his hole.
Warri, amongst his other accomplishments, was most useful as a retriever
of any wounded pigeon; he would hunt about until he spotted a fresh track,
and before long had captured the bird. Any one who has noticed the number
of hen-tracks in a poultry yard will appreciate this delicate performance.
Warri, I am sure, would have been invaluable to Sherlock Holmes.

Pleasant as our camp was we could not stay too long, for we still had a
considerable tract of unknown country before us. As the result of
numerous observations I make the position of Helena Spring to be lat. 21
degrees, 20 minutes 30 seconds South, and (by dead reckoning) long. 126
degrees 20 minutes East.

From the native I extracted the following words, which I consider

English. Aboriginal.

Eagle Hawk Gunderu
Gum tree Waaldi
Sand Nuah
Spinifex Godadyuda,
* Fire or Smoke Warru
* Water Gabbi
* Dog Pappa

[* The same as used by natives at Empress Spring.]



On October 11th we reluctantly left the "Diamond of the Desert" behind
us, travelling in a N.E. by N. direction over the interminable
sand-ridges, crossing a greater extent of burnt country than we had yet
seen, and finally camping on the top of a high ridge so as to catch any
breeze that the night might favour us with.

We made a long march that day of eighteen miles a very creditable stage
in such peculiarly configurated country. The camels had so benefited by
their rest and feed that it made little difference to them that they had
nothing to eat that night; they were well content to lie round the camp
all night and chew the cud. I have often noticed how much camels like
society; under favourable conditions--that is to say when travelling in
good camel-country like the Southern goldfields--they will feed for an
hour or so before dark, then slowly make their way with clattering
hobble-chains and clanging bells back to the camp-fire, and there, with
many grunts of satisfaction, lie peacefully until just before daylight,
when they go off for another feed. On moonlight nights they like to roam
about and pick choice morsels of bush on and off until daylight. In this
waste corner of the earth where now we battled our way, the poor brutes
wandered aimlessly about, now trying a mouthful of sharp spinifex and now
the leaves of a eucalyptus; turning from these in disgust, a little patch
of weed might be discovered by one lucky camel; no sooner would he hurry
towards it than the others would notice it, and then a great scramble
ensued and the weakest went without--though I have seen the strong help
the weak, as in the case of Czar, who, with his powerful jaws, would break
down branches for Misery, then quite young and without the requisite
teeth. How fine they look with their long necks stretched upwards with the
heads thrown back and the sensitive lips extended to catch some extra
fresh bunch of leaves! How cunningly they go to work to break a branch
that is out of reach; first the lowest leaf is gently taken in the lips
and pulled down until the mouth can catch hold of some hanging twig--along
this it is worked, and so from twig to branch, a greater strain being
exerted as the branches increase in size, until finally the main limb of
the branch is seized, and bent and twisted until broken. Often they try
for one branch time after time, for having set their minds on a particular
morsel, nothing will satisfy them until they have it.

No such scene could be watched from our camp on the ridge. But still we
had something out of the common to look upon in the shape of hills ahead,
and my hopes were high that we should soon see the last of the desert.
Away to the North high points and bold headlands stood out black and clear
above the sea of sand, tablelands and square-edged hills with some high
peaks rising from them--the most imposing hills we had seen since passing
Mount Burgess, near Coolgardie. From this point little could be determined
as to their character even with glasses, for they were, as we afterwards
found, over thirty miles distant.

Between them and our camp numerous low detached, table-top hills and
conical mounds could be seen--none of any size, but remarkable in shape
and appearance. These I named the Forebank Hills, after a hill near
my home. These hills gave promise of better country, and, choosing a
prominent headland, I altered our course towards it the following
morning. We had not been travelling long before a smoke rose quite
close to us, and we had another opportunity of seeing native hunting
operations without being seen ourselves. A fine upstanding buck was
dodging about amongst the blazing spinifex and was too engrossed to
notice us; presently his occupation led him over the ridge and we saw him
no more. From the earliness of the hour--for the smokes as a rule do not
rise before 9 a.m.--it was clear that he could not have come far, so,
picking up his tracks, we followed them back to his camp. Though we were
not in great want of water, I considered it always advisable to let no
chance of getting some slip by, since one never can tell how long the
next may be in coming.

The tracks led us along the foot of one ridge; along the next, some
three hundred yards distant, the ladies of the tribe could be seen
marching along, laughing and chattering, and occasionally giving forth
the peculiar shrill yell which only the gins can produce. It is
impossible to describe a noise in writing, but the sound is not unlike a
rather shrill siren, and the word shouted is a long-drawn "Yu-u-u." There
is no mistaking the women's voices, the men's cry is somewhat deeper.
Both are rather weird sounds, more especially when heard in thick scrub
where one can see no natives, though one hears them all round. In the
spinifex they were easily seen, and to their cry an answering yell came
over the ridge and other women and children appeared. Presently they saw
our caravan, and the "Yu-u-u" became fainter and fainter as the group
scattered in all directions, and was lost to view. At the end of the
tracks we found a camp, and in it the only attempt at a roofed shelter
that we saw in the desert, and this merely a few branches leant against a
small tree. The camp-fire had spread and burnt the spinifex close by,
which gave the spot anything but an inviting appearance.

Under the shelter were huddled together, asleep, two gins and a young
man. I have never seen more intense astonishment expressed in any one's
face than that shown by these three when we roused them. All in their way
were peculiar and deserving of description. The young gin was by no means
uncomely; well-shaped and healthy-looking, with a skin black and shining
as a well smoked meerschaum, with beautiful teeth which were shown off to
advantage by an extensive smile, when she found that we had no murderous
intentions. The other gin was the most repulsive object I have ever
seen--like a hideous toad with wrinkled, baggy skin, with legs and arms so
thin as to be no more than skin stretched tight over very meagre
shinbones; and the face of this wretched being was a mass of festering
wounds, on which no one could look without pity and horror. The man, too,
was remarkable; an exceedingly smart young buck with an air of
irresponsibility about him that suggested madness--a suspicion amply
confirmed by his subsequent behaviour. His decorations added to his queer
appearance; scarred by deep gashes on chest and arms, his body was
daubed with red ochre, and his ribs picked out with white; on his head a
kind of chignon formed of grass, hair, and string held his matted locks
in place, like a bird's nest on his crown; he had neither beard nor
whiskers, and was not blessed with any article of clothing whatever.

He showed us their well, which was nearly dry, and then volunteered to
lead us to others; and away he went, swaggering along and clicking his
tongue in great glee, occasionally breaking out into shrieks of laughter.
When we arrived at one dry rock-hole and then another, it dawned upon me
what the secret joke had been that so amused our friend; and I determined
that he should be of some use to us before we parted company.

Of these dry rock-holes, one would, after rain, hold a fair amount of
water, and is situated on the shoulder between two low table-tops. To the
South, about two miles distant, are three conspicuous conical hills,
close together, and about the same distance to the North-West a hill that
at once calls to mind an old fort or castle. On camping, our native
friend became a most intolerable nuisance, and proved himself a cunning
wrestler, suddenly bending down and diving between Breaden's legs, which
he seized at the ankle, nearly succeeding in throwing him to the ground.
With a chain formed of spare hobbles held together by wire, we tethered
him to a tree, scraped out a nest in the sand for him to sleep in, and
lit a fire to cheer him. There he lay quiet until, on making signs that
he was thirsty, one of us went to give him his food and water, when he
darted at his benefactor and fought most viciously. After that, all
through the night, at intervals, he was yelling and dancing, now upright
and now on hands and knees circling his tree and barking like a dog, now
tearing his headgear and stamping it in the sand, threatening us with
hands raised, and finally subsiding into his sandy nest, crying and
whining most piteously. It was an act of some danger to unloose him in
the morning, but before long he was laughing away as heartily as before.
There is no doubt he was as mad as could be. During the day's march he
was up to all kinds of pranks, going through all sorts of antics,
idiotic, sorrowful, angry, and vulgar in turn. The space between the
ridges was greater now, and on them were numerous pointed ant-hills
some two or three feet high. One favourite trick of this lunatic
was to rush towards one of these, and sit perched on the top with
his knees up and feet resting on the side of the heap, a most
uncomfortable position. Another dodge he tried with indifferent success
was that of throwing himself under a camel as he passed, with the object,
I suppose, of diving out on the other side. The camel, however, did not
understand the game and kicked him severely. He was a most extraordinary
person, and indeed I can understand any one going mad in this dreary
region; and to think that these black folk have never known anything

I could enumerate a score of strange tricks that our friend exhibited.
What surprised me most was to see him make use, in unmistakable
pantomime, of a vulgar expression that I thought was only known to
English schoolboys!

Between the Forebank Hills and the tablelands we were now approaching is
an open plain of spinifex some ten miles wide, bounded on North and South
by sand-ridges. From these in the morning the long line of broken
tablelands could be seen ahead of us, and running for a considerable
distance to the eastward. The highest point of those more immediately to
our front I named Mount Fothringham, after my cousin. The headland for
which we were steering was too far off to be reached that night, so we
camped on a ridge, and during the night noticed a small fire in the hills
ahead. It could only be a camp-fire of some natives, so, noting its
direction, and being unable to see anything further, we retired to rest.

The next morning, with the help of the glasses, we could see several
black figures moving about on the sloping foot of the cliffs, and
therefore steered in their direction. Our mad friend had to be
accommodated on the top of a camel, as he refused to walk or move, and I
wished to leave him with friends, or at any rate with fellow-countrymen,
though we no longer required his services as guide, in which
capacity he had been singularly useless. Five miles brought us to the
hills, and close on to the natives' camp whose fire we had seen, before
they discovered us; when they did so they fled, seven or eight of them,
and hid in caves in the sandstone. We had now been only four days since
the last water, but the weather was so hot, feed so scarce, and so much
ground burnt and dusty, that it was time we gave the camels another drink
if we wished to keep them in any sort of condition. From the native camp
a few tracks led round a corner of rock; these I followed, with the
camels coming behind, and soon saw two small native wells sunk in the
sand and debris, held in a cleft in the rock. Nothing but bare rock rose
all round, and on this we made camp, turning the camels out at the foot
of the cliffs where a few bushes grew.

Godfrey and Warri meanwhile had followed the blacks into the caves, and
now returned with two of the finest men I have seen in the interior. One,
a boy, apparently about eighteen years old, splendidly formed and
strongly built, standing nearly six feet high; the other a man of mature
years, not so tall but very broad and well-made. The boy had no hair on
his face, the man a short beard and moustaches, and both had a far better
cast of features than any I have seen further south. Their skin, too,
instead of being black, was a shining reddish-brown colour; this was
perhaps produced by red ochre and grease rubbed in, but in any case it
gave them a finer appearance. Both were quite without clothing or
ornament, nor did I notice any of the usual scars upon their bodies;
their well-fed frames made us hope that a change in the country was close
at hand.

These natives showed no fear or surprise when once in the camp, and,
examining our packs and saddles, sat "jabbering" away quite contented,
until Breaden struck a match to light his pipe. This so alarmed them that
they bolted. We did not attempt to stop the boy, but detained the man, as
I wished for further information about waters, and was also anxious to
study his habits. He had evidently been in touch with blacks from settled
parts, for he knew the words, "white-fella" and "womany," and had
certainly heard of a rifle, for on my picking one up and holding it
towards him he trembled with fear, and it was some time before his
confidence in us was restored. He really was a most intelligent man, both
amusing and interesting, and by signs and pantomime, repeated over and
over again until he saw that we guessed his meaning, he told us many
things. Plenty of women, old and young, were camped in one direction, and
were specially worth a visit; he knew of several watering-places, in one
of which we could bathe and stand waist-deep. So I made a compact that as
soon as he showed us this wonderful "Yowie" (his word for water) he
should go free. He seemed perfectly to understand this. Our mad friend he
hardly deigned to notice, and pointed at him in a most contemptuous way.

Now that he, the lunatic, was free to go where he liked, nothing would
induce him to leave us--he would start to go, and after a few paces
return and take up a crouching position close to the mouth of the well
where we were working, and as each bucketful of mud or moist sand was
hauled to the surface he eagerly watched it being emptied, and then
proceeded to cover himself with its contents, until at last he was hardly
distinguishable from a pyramid of mud--and a stranger object I never saw!
Towards dusk he slunk off and sat on a rock below the cliffs, where he
ate the food we had given him; and for all I know he may be there yet.

Work was carried on all night, which was divided as usual into shifts,
and this I have no doubt saved us from attack. Before sunset we had seen
several bucks sneaking about the rocks, and during the night they came
round us and held a whispered conversation with their fellow in our camp.
Between them a sort of telegraphy seemed to be going on by tapping stones
on the rocks. They may have been merely showing their position in the
darkness, or it is possible that they have a "Morse code" of their own.
I was on shift when they came, and as the well wanted baling only every
twenty minutes, I was lying awake and watching the whole performance, and
could now and then see a shadowy figure in the darkness. As soon as I
rose to work, our buck lay down and snored heavily, and his friends of
course were silent. I awoke Breaden on my way, as it would have been far
too much in their favour should the blacks have attacked us and found me
down the well and the rest of the party asleep. They were quite right in
wishing to rescue their friend, since they could not tell what his fate
was to be, but we could not risk a wounded companion or possibly worse,
and lay watching for the remainder of the night. Evidently they were
inclined to take no risks either, for they left us in peace.

The wells, situated as they are in the bed of a rocky gully, would after
rain hold plenty of water, though we extracted no more than thirty-five
gallons. Their position is lat. 20 degrees 46 minutes, long. 126 degrees
23 minutes.

From the rocks above the wells the tablelands to the East have quite a
grand appearance, running in a curve with an abrupt cliff on the Western
side, and many conical and peaked hills rising from their summit. These
tablelands, which in a broken line were seen by us to extend Northwards
for over forty miles, and certainly extend Eastwards for twenty miles and
possibly a great deal further, are of sandstone. Looking Westwards, a few
detached blocks may be seen, but we seemed to have struck the Western
limit of these hills. I have named them the Southesk Tablelands, after my
father. Between the curved line of cliffs and the wells are several
isolated blocks. Seven and a half miles to the Westward a remarkable
headland (Point Massie) can be seen at the Northern end of a detached
tableland. Again to the West, one mile, at the head of a deep little
rocky gorge, whose entrance is guarded by a large fig tree, is a very
fine rock-hole. This was the promised water, and our native friend was
free to return to his family; he was greatly pleased at the bargain being
carried out, and had evidently not expected it. Possibly what he has
heard of the white-fella is not much to his credit! The fig tree afforded
a splendid shade from the burning sun, and in a recess in the rock close
by we could sit in comparative coolness. Here the native artist had been
at work, his favourite subject being snakes and concentric rings.

A steep gorge, not very easy for camels to pass along, led up to the
rock-hole, which lies under a sheltering projection of rock. From the
rock above a good view is obtained; sand-ridges to the West, to the North
and East tablelands. Most noticeable are Mounts Elgin, Romilly, and
Stewart, bearing from here 346 degrees, 4 degrees, 16 degrees
respectively. These hills are named after three of my brothers-in-law.
They are of the usual form--that is to say, flat-topped with steep
sides--Mount Elgin especially appearing like an enormous squared block
above the horizon. To the South-East of Mount Stewart are two smaller
table-tops close together.

As I walked over the rocks I noticed numerous wallabies, of which Godfrey
shot several later; they were excellent eating, not unlike rabbit.
Leaving the rock-hole, we steered for Mount Romilly, first following down
the little creek from the gorge until it ran out into the sand in a clump
of bloodwoods. Then crossing a plain where some grass grew as well as
spinifex, we came again into sand-ridges, then another plain, then a
large, dry clay-pan West of Mount Stewart, then more ridges up to the
foot of Mount Romilly. It was here that we must have crossed the route of
Colonel Warburton in 1873, though at the time I could not quite make out
the relative positions of our two routes on the map.

Colonel Warburton, travelling from East to West, would be more or less
always between two ridges of sand, and his view would therefore be very
limited, and this would account for his not having marked hills on his
chart, which are as large as any in the far interior of the Colony. In
his journal, under date of September 2nd, we read: ". . . There are
hills in sight; those towards the North look high and hopeful, but they
are quite out of our course. Other detached, broken hills lie to the
West, so our intention is to go towards them." Then, on September 3rd:
"N.W. by W. to a sandstone hill" (probably Mount Romilly). "North of us
there is a rather good-looking range running East and West with a hopeful
bluff at its Western end" (probably Twin Head). From the top of Mount
Romilly a very prominent headland can be seen bearing 7 degrees, and
beyond it two others so exactly similar in shape and size that we called
them the Twins. For these we steered over the usual sand-ridges and small
plains, on which a tree (VENTILAGO VIMINALIS) new to us was noticed;
here, too, was growing the HIBISCUS STURTII, whose pretty flowers
reminded us that there were some things in the country nice to look upon.

Near the foot of the second headland we made camp. Leaving Charlie behind,
the rest of us set out in different directions to explore the hills.
There are four distinct headlands jutting out from the tableland,
which extends for many miles to the Eastward and in a broken line
to the Southward, the face of the cliffs on the Western shore, so to
speak, being indented with many bays and gulfs, and, to complete the
simile, the waves of sand break upon the cliffs, while in the bays and
gulfs there is smooth water--that is to say, flat sand. Grass and other
herbage and bushes grow in a narrow belt around the foot of the cliffs,
but everywhere else is spinifex.

The hills present a most desolate appearance, though somewhat remarkable;
sheer cliffs stand on steep slopes of broken slabs and boulders of
sandstone, reminding one of a quarry dump; from the flat summit of the
cliffs rise conical peaks and round hills of most peculiar shape. The
whole is covered with spinifex, a plant which seems to thrive in any kind
of soil; this rock-spinifex, I noticed, contains much more resinous
matter than the sand-spinifex, every spine being covered with a sticky
juice. From our camp I walked up the valley between the first and second
head, and, ascending the latter, which is crowned with cliffs some thirty
feet high, sat down and examined the hills with my glasses. Two black
objects moving about caught my eye, and as they approached I saw them to
be two fine bucks decked out in most extravagant manner. From my point of
vantage some three hundred feet above them, I could watch them, myself
unseen. Each carried a sheaf of spears, woommera, and shield, and in
their girdle of string a number of short throwing-sticks. Round their
waists were hanging sporrans formed from tufts of hair, probably similar
to those we found at Family Well that were made from the tufts from the
ends of bandicoots' tails; their bodies were painted in fantastic
patterns with white. Their hair was arranged in a bunch on the top of
their heads, and in it were stuck bunches of emu feathers. Seen in those
barren, dull-red hills, they looked strange and almost fiendish. They
were evidently going to pay a visit to some neighbours either to hold
festival or to fight--probably the latter.

When almost directly below they looked up and saw me; I remained quite
still, watching all the time through the glasses. After the first
surprise they held a hurried consultation and then fled; then another
consultation, and back they came again, this time very warlike. With
shouts and grunts they danced round in a circle, shaking their spears at
me, and digging them into the ground, as much as to say, "That is what
we would do to you if we could!" I rose from my hiding place and
started to go down towards them, when they again retired, dancing
and spear-waving at intervals. At the end of the valley, that is the
third valley, there is a sheer cliff to a plateau running back to the
foot of some round hills; across this plateau they ran until, on coming
to some thick bushes, they hid, hoping, I have no doubt, to take me
unawares. However, I was not their prospective victim, for no sooner had
they planted themselves than I saw Godfrey, all unconscious, sauntering
along towards them.

The whole scene was so clear to me from my lofty position that its
laughable side could not help striking me, but this did not prevent my
forestalling the blacks' murderous designs by a shot from my rifle, which
was sufficiently well aimed to scare the bucks and attract Godfrey's
attention. As soon as possible I joined him and explained my seemingly
strange action. We tracked up the natives, and found they had been
following a regular pad, which before long led us to a fine big rock-hole
in the bed of a deep and rocky gully. A great flight of crows circling
about a little distance off, made us sure that another pool existed;
following down the first gully and turning to the left up another, deeper
and broader, we found our surmise had been correct. Before us, at the
foot of an overhanging rock, was a beautiful clear pool. What a glorious
sight! We wasted no time in admiring it from a distance, and each in turn
plunged into the cool water, whilst the other kept watch on the rocks
above. Sheltered as it was from the sun, except for a short time during
the day, this pool was as ice compared to the blazing, broiling heat
overhead, and was indeed a luxury. By the side of the pool, under the
overhanging rock, some natives had been camped, probably our friends the
warriors; the ashes were still hot, and scattered about were the remains
of a meal, feathers and bones of hawks and crows. Above the overhanging
rock, in the middle of the gully, is a small rock-hole with most
perfectly smooth sides, so situated that rain water running down the
gully would first fill the rock-hole, and, overflowing, would fall some
twenty feet into the pool below. The rock is of soft, yellowish-white
sandstone. Close to the water edge I carved C96 and Godfrey scratched the
initials of all of us. The pool, which when full would hold some forty
thousand gallons, I named "Godfrey's Tank," as he was the first white
man to set eyes upon it.

Having finished our bathe, we set about looking for a path by which to
bring the camels for a drink; the gorge was too rocky and full of huge
boulders to make its passage practicable, and it seemed as if we should
have to make a detour of a good many miles before reaching the water.
Fortunately this was unnecessary, for on meeting Breaden he told us he
had found a small pool at the head of the first valley which was easy of
access. This was good news, so we returned to camp, and, as it was now
dark, did not move that night. And what a night it was!--so hot and
oppressive that sleep was impossible. It was unpleasant enough to be
roasted by day, but to be afterwards baked by night was still more so! A
fierce fire, round which perhaps the warriors were dancing, lit up the
rocks away beyond the headlands, the glow showing all the more
brilliantly from the blackness of the sky.

The next morning we packed up and moved camp to the pool, passing up the
first valley--Breaden Valley--with the first promontory on our left. At
the mouth of the valley, on the south side, are three very noticeable
points, the centre one being conical with a chimney-like block on one
side, and flanking it on either hand table-topped hills.

Down the valley runs a deep but narrow creek which eventually finds its
way round the foot of the headlands into a ti-tree-encircled red lagoon
enclosed by sand-ridges. Near the head of the valley the creek splits;
near the head of the left-hand branch is Godfrey's Tank; in the other,
just before it emerges from the cliffs, is the small pool found by
Breaden. Several kinds of trees new to me were growing in the valleys,
one, a very pretty crimson-blossomed tree, not unlike a kurrajong in size,
shape, and character of the wood, but with this difference, in leaf, that
its leaves were divided into two points, whilst the kurrajong has three.
One of these trees had been recently chopped down with a blunt implement,
probably a stone tomahawk, and a half-finished piece of work--I think a
shield--was lying close by. The wood is soft, and must be easily shaped.
It is rather curious that the natives, of whom, judging from the smoke
seen in all directions, there must be a fair number, should not have been
camped at such a splendid water as Godfrey's Tank, the reason of their
absence being, I suppose, that camping in the barren hills would entail
a longish walk every day to any hunting grounds. To the native "enough
is as good as a feast," and a wretched little well as serviceable as a
large pool. The nights were so cloudy that I was unable to see any stars,
but by dead reckoning only the position of the pool is lat. 20 degrees 15
minutes long. 126 degrees 25 minutes.

From the top of the highest headland, which is divided into two
nipple-like peaks, an extensive view can be obtained. To the South and the
South-East, the Southesk Tablelands; to the East, broken tablelands and
sandhills; to the North, the same; to the North-West, nothing but
hopeless ridge upon ridge of sand as far as the horizon. To the West,
some ten miles distant, a line of cliffs running North and South, with
sand-ridges beyond, and a plain of spinifex between; to the North of the
cliffs an isolated table-top hill, showing out prominently--this I named
Mount Cornish, after my old friend and tutor in days gone by.

Leaving the hills on the 21st, we soon reached a little colony of
detached hills of queer shapes, one, as Breaden said, looking "like a
clown's cap." From the top of the highest, which I named Mount Ernest,
after my brother-in-law, a dismal scene stretched before us, nothing but
the interminable sand-ridges, the horizon as level as that of the ocean.
What heartbreaking country, monotonous, lifeless, without interest,
without excitement save when the stern necessity of finding water forced
us to seek out the natives in their primitive camps! Every day, however,
might bring forth some change, and, dismal as the country is, one was
buoyed up by the thought of difficulties overcome, and that each day's
march disclosed so much more of the nature of a region hitherto
untraversed. It would have been preferable to have found good country,
for not only would that have been of some practical benefit to the world
at large, but would have been more pleasant to travel through. So far we
had had nothing but hard work, and as the only result the clear proof
that a howling wilderness of sand occupies the greater area of the
Colony's interior

By going due East from Mount Ernest I could have cut the Sturt Creek in
less than one hundred miles' travel, which would have simplified our
journey. But taking into consideration that an equal distance would
probably take us beyond the northern boundary of the desert, I determined
to continue on a Northerly course, as by doing so we should be still
traversing unknown country, until we reached the Margaret River or some
tributary of it; whereas by cutting and then following up the Sturt, we
should merely be going over ground already covered by Gregory's and
subsequent parties.

Careful scanning of the horizon from Mount Ernest resulted in sighting
some hills or rocks to the North-East. Excepting that higher ground
existed, nothing could be seen as to its nature, for it was ever moving
this way and that in the shimmering haze of heat and glare of the sun,
which, intensified by powerful field-glasses, made one's eyes ache. I
find it hard indeed to render this narrative interesting, for every page
of my diary shows an entry no less monotonous than the following:

"Same miserable country--roasting sun--no feed for camels--camp on crest
of high ridge in hopes of getting a breath of air--thousands of small ants

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