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Australia Twice Traversed, The Romance of Exploration by Ernest Giles

Part 8 out of 11

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After Saleh left us we passed only one more salt lake, and then the
country became entirely be-decked with unbroken scrub, while spinifex
covered the whole ground. The scrubs consisted mostly of mallee, with
patches of thick mulga, casuarinas, sandal-wood, not the sweet-scented
sandal-wood of commerce, which inhabits the coast country of Western
Australia, and quandong trees, another species of the sandal-wood
family. Although this was in a cool time of the year--namely, near the
end of the winter--the heat in the day-time was considerable, as the
thermometer usually stood as high as 96 degrees in the shade, it was
necessary to completely shelter the casks from the sun; we therefore
cut and fixed over them a thick covering of boughs and leaves, which
was quite impervious to the solar ray, and if nothing disturbed them
while we were absent, I had no fear of injury to the casks or of much
loss from evaporation. No traces of any human inhabitants were seen,
nor were the usually ever-present, tracks of native game, or their
canine enemy the wild dingo, distinguishable upon the sands of this
previously untrodden wilderness. The silence and the solitude of this
mighty waste were appalling to the mind, and I almost regretted that I
had sworn to conquer it. The only sound the ear could catch, as hour
after hour we slowly glided on, was the passage of our noiseless
treading and spongy-footed "ships" as they forced their way through
the live and dead timber of the hideous scrubs. Thus we wandered on,
farther from our camp, farther from our casks, and farther from
everything we wished or required. A day and a half after Saleh left
us, at our sixth night's encampment, we had left Ooldabinna 140 miles
behind. I did not urge the camels to perform quick or extraordinary
daily journeys, for upon the continuance of their powers and strength
our own lives depended. When the camels got good bushes at night, they
would fill themselves well, then lie down for a sleep, and towards
morning chew their cud. When we found them contentedly doing so we
knew they had had good food. I asked Alec one morning, when he brought
them to the camp, if he had found them feeding; he replied, "Oh, no,
they were all lying down chewing their KID." Whenever the camels
looked well after this we said, "Oh, they are all right, they've been
chewing their 'kid.'"

No water had yet been discovered, nor had any place where it could
lodge been seen, even if the latter rain itself descended upon us,
except indeed in the beds of the salt-lakes, where it would
immediately have been converted into brine. On the seventh day of our
march we had accomplished fifteen miles, when our attention was drawn
to a plot of burnt spinifex, surrounded by the recent foot-prints of
natives. This set us to scan the country in every direction where any
view could be obtained. Alec Ross climbed a tree, and by the aid of
field-glasses discovered the existence of a fall of country into a
kind of hollow, with an apparently broken piece of open grassy ground
some distance to the south-west. I determined to go to this spot,
whatever might be the result, and proceeded towards it; after
travelling five miles, and closely approaching it, I was disgusted to
find that it was simply the bed of a salt-lake, but as we saw numerous
native foot-prints and the tracks of emus, wild dogs, and other
creatures, both going to and coming from it, we went on until we
reached its lonely shore. There was an open space all round it, with
here and there a few trees belonging to the surrounding scrubs that
had either advanced on to, or had not receded from the open ground.
The bed of the lake was white, salty-looking, and dry; There was,
however, very fine herbage round the shores and on the open ground.
There was plenty of the little purple pea-vetch, the mignonette plant,
and Clianthus Dampierii, or Sturt's desert-pea, and we turned our four
fine camels out to graze, or rather browse, upon whatever they chose
to select, while we looked about in search of the water we felt sure
must exist here.

The day was warm for this time of year, the thermometer standing at 95
degrees in the shade. But before we went exploring for water we
thought it well to have some dinner. The most inviting looking spot
was at the opposite or southern end of the lake, which was
oval-shaped; we had first touched upon it at its northern end. Alec
Ross walked over to inspect that, and any other likely places, while I
dug wells in the bed of the lake. The soil was reasonably good and
moist, and on tasting it I could discover no taint of salt, nor had
the surface the same sparkling incrustation of saline particles that I
had noticed upon all the other lake-beds. At ten or eleven inches I
reached the bedrock, and found the soil rested upon a rotten kind of
bluish-green slate, but no water in the numerous holes I dug rewarded
me, so I gave it up in despair and returned to the camp to await
Alec's report of his wanderings. On the way I passed by some black
oak-trees near the margin, and saw where the natives had tapped the
roots of most of them for water. This I took to be a very poor sign of
any other water existing here. I could see all round the lake, and if
Alec was unsuccessful there was no other place to search. Alec was a
long time away, and it was already late when he returned, but on his
arrival he rejoiced me with the intelligence that, having fallen in
with a lot of fresh native tracks, all trending round to the spot that
looked so well from this side, he had followed them, and they led him
to a small native clay-dam on a clay-pan containing a supply of yellow
water. This information was, however, qualified by the remark that
there was not enough water there for the whole of our mob of camels,
although there was plenty for our present number. We immediately
packed up and went over to our new-found treasure.

This spot is 156 miles straight from our last watering-place at
Ooldabinna. I was very much pleased with our discovery, though the
quantity of water was very small, but having found some, we thought we
might find more in the neighbourhood. At that moment I believe if we
had had all our camels here they could all have had a good drink, but
the evaporation being so terribly rapid in this country, by the time I
could return to Ooldabinna and then get back here, the water would be
gone and the dam dry. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof"
is, however, a maxim that explorers must very often be contented to
abide by. Our camels got as much water as they chose to drink; they
were not very big animals, but I am sure 150 gallons was consumed
amongst the four. They were hobbled out in the excellent herbage,
which was better here than where we first outspanned them. There was
splendid grass as well as herbage, but camels seldom, if ever, touch
it. The clianthus pea and the vetch pea they ate ravenously, and when
they can get those they require very little water.

No natives appeared to be now in the immediate neighbourhood. This was
a very pretty and charming little oasis-camp. We got a few
bronze-winged pigeons that came by mistake to water that night. The
following morning we found the camels had decamped, in consequence of
their having had long hobbles allowed them, as we did not suppose they
would ramble away from such splendid herbage and water. Alec went
after them very early, but had not returned by midday. During his
absence I was extremely anxious, for, if he should be unable to track,
and should return without them, our case would be almost hopeless. If
camels are determined to stampede and can get a good start, there is
frequently no overtaking them on foot. They are not like horses, which
will return of their own accord to water. Camels know their own powers
and their own independence of man, and I believe that a camel, if not
in subjection, might live for months without water, provided it could
get succulent food. How anxiously I listened as hour after hour I
maundered about this spot for the tinkling sound of the camels' bells!
How often fancy will deceive even the strongest minds! Twenty times
during that morning I could have sworn I heard the bells, and yet they
were miles out of earshot. When Alec and I and the camels were all
here together I thought this a very pretty place, but oh, how hideous
did it appear while I was here alone, with the harrowing thought of
the camels being lost and Alec returning without them. Death itself in
any terrors clad would have been a more welcome sight to me then and
there, than Alec Ross without the camels. But Alec Ross was a right
smart chance of a young bushman, and I knew that nothing would prevent
him from getting the animals so long as their hobbles held. If,
however, they succeeded in breaking them, it would be good-bye for
ever. As they can go in their hobbles, unless short, if they have a
mind to stampede, as fast as a man can walk in this region, and with a
whole night's start with loose legs, pursuit would be hopeless. But
surely at last I hear the bells! Yes; but, strange to say, I did not
hear them until Alec and the camels actually appeared through the edge
of scrub. Alec said they had gone miles, and were still pushing on in
single file when he got up to them.

Now that I had found this water I was undecided what to do. It would
be gone before I could return to it, and where I should find any more
to the west it was impossible to say; it might be 100, it might be
200, it might even be 300 miles. God only knows where the waters are
in such a region as this. I hesitated for the rest of the day--whether
to go still farther west in search of water, or to return at once and
risk the bringing of the whole party here. Tietkens and Young, I
reflected, have found a new depot, and perhaps removed the whole party
to it. Then, again, they might not, but have had to retreat to
Youldeh. Eventually I decided to go on a few miles more to the west,
in order to see whether the character of the country was in any way
altered before I returned to the depot.

We went about forty miles beyond the dam; the only alteration in the
country consisted of a return to the salt-lake system that had ceased
for so many miles prior to our reaching our little dam. At the
furthest point we reached, 195 miles from the depot; it was upon the
shore of another salt lake, no water of any kind was to be procured.
The only horizon to be seen was about fifteen miles away, and was
simply the rim of an undulation in the dreary scrubs covered with the
usual timber--that is to say, a mixture of the Eucalyptus dumosa or
mallee, casuarinas or black oaks, a few Grevilleas, hakea bushes, with
leguminous trees and shrubs, such as mulga, and a kind of harsh-,
silver wattle, looking bush. On the latter order of these trees and
plants the camels find their sustenance. Two stunted specimens of the
native orange-tree or capparis were seen where I had left the two
casks. From my furthest point west, in latitude 29 degrees 15' and
longitude 128 degrees 3' 30", I returned to the dam and found that
even during my short absence of only three and a half days the
diminution of the volume of water in it was amazing, and I was
perfectly staggered at the decrease, which was at the rate of more
than an inch per day. The dimensions of this singular little dam were
very small: the depth was its most satisfactory feature. It was, as
all native watering places are, funnel-shaped, and to the bottom of
the funnel I could poke a stick about three feet, but a good deal of
that depth was mud; the surface was not more than eight feet long, by
three feet wide, its shape was elliptical; it was not full when we
first saw it, having shrunk at least three feet from its highest
water-mark. I now decided to return by a new and more southerly route
to the depot, hoping to find some other waters on the way. At this dam
we were 160 miles from Eucla Harbour, which I visited last February
with my black boy Tommy and the three horses lost in pushing from
Wynbring to the Finniss. North from Eucla, running inland, is a great
plain. I now wished to determine how far north this plain actually
extended. I was here in scrubs to the north of it. The last night we
camped at the dam was exceedingly cold, the thermometer falling to 26
degrees on the morning of the 16th of August, the day we left. I
steered south-east, and we came out of the scrubs, which had been
thinning, on to the great plain, in forty-nine or fifty miles.
Changing my course here to east, we skirted along the edge of the
plain for twenty-five miles. It was beautifully grassed, and had
cotton and salt-bush on it: also some little clover hollows, in which
rainwater lodges after a fall, but I saw none of any great capacity,
and none that held any water. It was splendid country for the camels
to travel over; no spinifex, no impediments for their feet, and no
timber. A bicycle could be ridden, I believe, over the whole extent of
this plain, which must be 500 or 600 miles long by nearly 200 miles
broad, it being known as the Hampton plains in Western Australia, and
ending, so to say, near Youldeh. Having determined where the plain
extends at this part of it, I now changed my course to east north-east
for 106 miles, through the usual sandhill scrubs and spinifex region,
until we reached the track of the caravan from Youldeh, having been
turned out of our straight course by a large salt lake, which most
probably is the southern end of the one we met first, at eighteen
miles west from Ooldabinna. By the tracks I could see that the party
had not retreated to Youldeh, which was so far re-assuring. On the
22nd of August we camped on the main line of tracks, fifteen miles
from home, when, soon after we started, it became very cloudy, and
threatened to rain. The weather for the last six days has been very
oppressive, the thermometer standing at 92 to 94 degrees, every day
when we outspanned, usually from eleven to half-past twelve, the
hottest time of the day not having then been reached. As we approached
the depot, some slight sprinklings of rain fell, and as we drew nearer
and nearer, our anxiety to ascertain whether our comrades were yet
there increased; also whether our camels, which had now come 196 miles
from the dam, could get any water, for we had found none whatever on
our return route. On mounting the last sandhill which shut out the
view, we were pleased to see the flutterings of the canvas habitations
in the hollow below, and soon after we were welcomed by our friends.
Saleh had returned by himself all right, and I think much to his
surprise had not been either killed, eaten, or lost in the bush. I was
indeed glad to find the party still there, as I had great doubts
whether they could hold out until my return. They were there, and that
was about all, for the water in all the wells was barely sufficient to
give our four camels a drink; there remained only a bucket or two of
slush rather than water in the whole camp. It appeared, however, as
though fortune were about to favour us, for the light droppings of
rain continued, and before night we were compelled to seek the shelter
of our tents. I was indeed thankful to Heaven for paying even a part
of so longstanding a debt, although it owes me a good many showers
yet; but being a patient creditor, I will wait. We were so anxious
about the water that we were continually stirring out of the tents to
see how the wells looked, and whether any water had yet ran into them,
a slight trickling at length began to run into the best-catching of
our wells, and although the rain did not continue long or fall
heavily, yet a sufficiency drained into the receptacle to enable us to
fill up all our water-holding vessels the next morning, and give a
thorough good drink to all our camels. I will now give an account of
how my two officers fared on their journey in search of a depot to the

Their first point was to the little native dam they had seen prior to
the discovery of this place, and there they encamped the first night,
ten miles from hence on a bearing of north 9 degrees east. Leaving the
dam, they went north for twenty-five miles over high sandhills and
through scrubs, when they saw some fresh native tracks, and found a
small and poor native well, in which there was only a bucketful or two
of water. They continued their northern course for twenty-five miles
farther, when they reached a hollow with natives' foot-marks all over
it, and some diamond sparrows, Amadina of Gould. Again they were
unsuccessful in all their searches for water. Going farther north for
fifteen miles, they observed some smoke to the north-east, and reached
the place in six or seven miles. Here they found and surprised a large
family of natives, who had apparently only recently arrived. A wide
and deep hollow or valley existed among high sandhill country,
timbered mostly with a eucalyptus, which is simply a gigantic species
of mallee, but as it grows singly, it resembles gum-trees. Having
descended into this hollow, a mile and a half wide, they saw the
natives, and were in hopes of obtaining some information from them,
but unfortunately the whole mob decamped, uttering loud and prolonged
cries. Following this valley still northwards they reached its head in
about six miles, but could discover no place where the natives
obtained their supplies of water. At this point they were travelling
over burnt scrubby sandhill country still north, when the natives who
had appeared so shy came running after them in a threatening manner,
howling at them, and annoying them in every possible way. These
people, who had now arrayed themselves in their war-paint, and had all
their fighting weapons in hand, evidently meant mischief; but my
officers managed to get away from them without coming to a hostile
encounter. They endeavoured to parley with the natives and stopped for
that purpose, but could gain no information whatever as to the waters
in their territories. Four miles north were then travelled, over burnt
country, and having failed in discovering any places or even signs,
otherwise than the presence of black men, of places where water could
be obtained, and being anxious about the state of the water supply at
the depot, as I had advised them not to remain too long away from this
point, whose position is in latitude 27 degrees 48' and longitude 131
degrees 19', they returned. The Musgrave Range, they said, was not
more than 100 miles to the north of them, but they had not sighted it.
They were greatly disappointed at their want of success, and returned
by a slightly different route, searching in every likely-looking place
for water, but finding none, though they are both of opinion that the
country is watered by native wells, and had they had sufficient time
to have more thoroughly investigated it, they would doubtless have
been more successful. The Everard Range being about sixty miles south
from the Musgrave chain, and they not having sighted it, I can
scarcely think they could have been within 100 miles of the Musgrave,
as from high sandhills that high feature should be visible at that

When Alec Ross and I returned from the west the others had been back
some days, and were most anxious to hear how we had got on out west.

The usual anxiety at the camp was the question of water supply; I had
found so little where I had been, and the water here was failing
rapidly every day. Had it not been for last night's rain, we should be
in a great difficulty this morning. Now, however, we had got our
supply replenished by the light rain, and for the moment all was well;
but it did not follow that because it rained here it must also rain at
the little dam 160 miles away. Yet I decided to take the whole party
to it, and as, by the blessing of Providence, we now had sufficient
water for the purpose, to carry as much as we possibly could, so that
if no rain had fallen at the dam when we arrived there, we should give
the camels what water they carried and keep pushing on west, and trust
to fate, or fortune, or chance, or Providence, or whatever it might
be, that would bring us to water beyond. On the 24th August, having
filled up everything that could hold a drop of water, we departed from
this little isolated spot, having certainly 160 miles of desert
without water to traverse, and perhaps none to be found at the end.
Now, having everything ready, and watered our camels, we folded our
tents like the Arabs, and as silently stole away. In consequence of
having to carry so much water, our loads upon leaving Ooldabinna were
enormously heavy, and the weather became annoyingly hot just as we
began our journey. The four camels which Alec Ross and I had out with
us looked wretched objects beside their more fortunate companions that
had been resting at Ooldabinna, and were now in excellent condition;
our unfortunates, on the contrary, had been travelling for seventeen
days at the rate of twenty-three miles per day, with only one drink of
water in the interval. These four were certainly excellent animals.
Alec rode my little riding cow Reechy. I had a splendid gelding, which
I named the Pearl Beyond all Price, though he was only called the
Pearl. He was a beautiful white camel. Another cow I called the Wild
Gazelle, and we had a young bull that afterwards became Mr. Tietkens's
riding camel. It is unnecessary to record each day's proceedings
through these wretched scrubs, as the record of "each dreary to-morrow
but repeats the dull tale of to-day." But I may here remark that
camels have a great advantage over horses in these dense wildernesses,
for the former are so tall that their loads are mostly raised into the
less resisting upper branches of the low trees of which these scrubs
are usually composed, whereas the horses' loads being so much nearer
the ground have to be dragged through the stouter and stronger lower
limbs of the trees. Again, camels travel in one long single file, and
where the leading camel forces his way the others all follow. It is of
great importance to have some good leading camels. My arrangement for
traversing these scrubs was as follows:--Saleh on his riding gelding,
the most lion-hearted creature in the whole mob, although Saleh was
always beating or swearing at him in Hindostanee, led the whole
caravan, which was divided into three separate lots; at every sixth
there was a break, and one of the party rode ahead of the next six,
and so on. The method of leading was, when the scrubs permitted, the
steersman would ride; if they were too thick for correct steering, he
would walk; then a man riding or leading a riding camel to guide
Saleh, who led the baggage mob. Four of us used to steer. I had taught
Alec Ross, and we took an hour about, at a time. Immediately behind
Saleh came three bull camels loaded with casks of water, each cask
holding twenty gallons. These used to crash and smash down and through
the branches, so that the passage was much clearer after them. All the
rest of the equipment, including water-beds, boxes, etc., was encased
in huge leather bags, except one cow's load; this, with the bags of
flour on two other camels, was enveloped in green hide. The fortunate
rider at the extreme end had a somewhat open groove to ride in. This
last place was the privilege of the steersman when his hour of agony
was up. After the caravan had forced its way through this forest
primeval, there was generally left an open serpentine line about six
feet above the ground, through the trees, and when a person was on
this line they could see that something unusual must have passed
through. On the ground was a narrower line about two feet wide, and
sometimes as much as a foot deep, where one animal after another had
stepped. In my former journals I mentioned that the spinifex wounded
the horses' feet, and disfigured their coronets, it also used to take
a good deal of hair off some of the horses' legs; but in the case of
the camels, although it did not seem to excoriate them, it took every
hair off their legs up to three feet from the ground, and their limbs
turned black, and were as bright and shiny as a newly polished boot.
The camels' hair was much finer than that of the horses', but their
skin was much thicker, and while the horses' legs were punctured and
suppurating, the camels' were all as hard as steel and bright as

What breakfast we had was always taken very early, before it was light
enough to track the camels; then, while some of the party went after
them, the others' duty was to have all the saddles and packs ready for
instant loading. Our shortest record of leaving a camp (On a piece of
open ground.) was half an hour from the instant the first camel was
caught, but it usually took the best part of an hour before a
clearance could be effected. Upon leaving Ooldabinna we had our
westerly tracks to follow; this made the road easier. At the
ninety-mile place, where I left the two water casks, we were glad to
find them all safe, and in consequence of the shade we had put over
them, there had been no loss of water from evaporation. On the sixth
night from Ooldabinna we were well on our way towards the little dam,
having come 120 miles. The heat had been very oppressive. At dusk of
that day some clouds obscured the sky, and light rain fell, continuing
nearly all night. On the seventh day, the 30th of August, there was
every appearance of wet setting in. I was very thankful, for now I
felt sure we should find more water in the little dam than when I left
it. We quietly ensconced ourselves under our tents in the midst of the
scrubs, and might be said to have enjoyed a holiday as a respite and
repose, in contrast to our usual perpetual motion. The ground was far
too porous to hold any surface water, and had our camels wanted it
never so much, it could only be caught upon some outspread tarpaulins;
but what with the descending moisture, the water we carried and the
rain we caught, we could now give them as much as they liked to drink,
and I now felt sure of getting more when we arrived at the little dam.
During the night of the 29th one of our best cow-camels calved.
Unfortunately the animal strained herself so severely in one of her
hips, or other part of her hind legs, that she could not rise from the
ground. She seemed also paralysed with cold. Her little mite of a calf
had to be killed. We milked the mother as well as we could while she
was lying down, and we fed and watered her--at least we offered her
food and water, but she was in too great pain to eat. Camel calves
are, in proportion to their mothers, the most diminutive but pretty
little objects imaginable. I delayed here an additional day on the
poor creature's account, but all our efforts to raise her proved
unsuccessful. I could not leave the poor dumb brute on the ground to
die by inches slowly, by famine, and alone, so I in mercy shot her
just before we left the place, and left her dead alongside the progeny
that she had brought to life in such a wilderness, only at the expense
of her own. She had been Mr. Tietkens's hack, and one of our best
riding camels. We had now little over forty miles to go to reach the
dam, and as all our water had been consumed, and the vessels were
empty, the loads now were light enough. On the 3rd of September we
arrived, and were delighted to find that not only had the dam been
replenished, but it was full to overflowing. A little water was
actually visible in the lake-bed alongside of it, at the southern end,
but it was unfit for drinking.

The little reservoir had now six feet of water in it; there was
sufficient for all my expected requirements. The camels could drink at
their ease and pleasure. The herbage and grass was more green and
luxuriant than ever, and to my eyes it now appeared a far more pretty
scene. There were the magenta-coloured vetch, the scarlet desert-pea,
and numerous other leguminous plants, bushes, and trees, of which the
camels are so fond. Mr. Young informed me that he had seen two or
three natives from the spot at which we pitched our tents, but I saw
none, and they never returned while we were in occupation of their
property. This would be considered a pretty spot anywhere, but coming
suddenly on it from the dull and sombre scrubs, the contrast makes it
additionally striking. In the background to the south were some high
red sandhills, on which grew some scattered casuarina of the black oak
kind, which is a different variety from, and not so elegant or shady a
tree as, the finer desert oak, which usually grows in more open
regions. I have not as yet seen any of them on this expedition. All
round the lake is a green and open space with scrubs standing back,
and the white lake-bed in the centre. The little dam was situated on a
piece of clay ground where rain-water from the foot of some of the
sandhills could run into the lake; and here the natives had made a
clumsy and (ab)original attempt at storing the water, having dug out
the tank in the wrong place, at least not in the best position for
catching the rain-water. I felt sure there was to be a waterless track
beyond, so I stayed at this agreeable place for a week, in order to
recruit the camels, and more particularly to enable another cow to
calve. During this interval of repose we had continued oppressive
weather, the thermometer standing from 92 and 94 to 96 degrees every
afternoon, but the nights were agreeably cool, if not cold. We had
generally very cloudy mornings; the flies were particularly numerous
and troublesome, and I became convinced that any further travel to the
west would have to be carried on under very unfavourable
circumstances. This little dam was situated in latitude 29 degrees 19'
4", and longitude 128 degrees 38' 16", showing that we had crossed the
boundary line between the two colonies of South and Western Australia,
the 129th meridian. I therefore called this the Boundary Dam. It must
be recollected that we are and have been for 7 1/2 degrees of
longitude--that is to say, for 450 miles of westing, and 130 miles of
northing--occupying the intervening period between the 9th of June, to
the 3rd of September, entirely enveloped in dense scrubs, and I may
say that very few if any explorers have ever before had such a region
to traverse. I had managed to penetrate this country up to the present
point, and it was not to be wondered at if we all ardently longed for
a change. Even a bare, boundless expanse of desert sand would be
welcomed as an alternative to the dark and dreary scrubs that
surrounded us. However, it appeared evident to me, as I had traversed
nothing but scrubs for hundreds of miles from the east, and had found
no water of any size whatever in all the distance I had yet come, that
no waters really existed in this country, except an occasional native
well or native dam, and those only at considerable distances apart.
Concluding this to be the case, and my object being that the
expedition should reach the city of Perth, I decided there was only
one way to accomplish this--namely, to go thither, at any risk, and
trust to Providence for an occasional supply of water here and there
in the intermediate distance. I desired to make for a hill or mountain
called Mount Churchman by Augustus Churchman Gregory in 1846. I had no
written record of water existing there, but my chart showed that Mount
Churchman had been visited by two or three other travellers since that
date, and it was presumable that water did permanently exist there.
The hill was, however, distant from this dam considerably over 600
miles in a straight line, and too far away for it to be possible we
could reach it unless we should discover some new watering places
between. I was able to carry a good supply of water in casks,
water-beds and bags; and to enable me to carry this I had done away
with various articles, and made the loads as light as possible; but it
was merely lightening them of one commodity to load them with a
corresponding weight of water. At the end of a week I was tired of the
listless life at the camp. The cow camel had not calved, and showed no
greater disposition to do so now than when we arrived, so I determined
to delay no longer on her account. The animals had done remarkably
well here, as the feed was so excellent. The water that had been lying
in the bed of the lake when we arrived had now dried up, and the
quantity taken by ourselves and the camels from the little dam was
telling very considerably upon its store--a plain intimation to us
that it would soon become exhausted, and that for the sustenance of
life more must be procured. Where the next favoured spot would be
found, who could tell? The last water we had met was over 150 miles
away; the next might be double that distance. Having considered all
these matters, I informed my officers and men that I had determined to
push westward, without a thought of retreat, no matter what the result
might be; that it was a matter of life or death for us; we must push
through or die in the scrubs. I added that if any more than one of the
party desired to retreat, I would provide them with rations and
camels, when they could either return to Fowler's Bay by the way we
had come, or descend to Eucla Station on the coast, which lay south
nearly 170 miles distant.

I represented that we were probably in the worst desert upon the face
of the earth, but that fact should give us all the more pleasure in
conquering it. We were surrounded on all sides by dense scrubs, and
the sooner we forced our way out of them the better. It was of course
a desperate thing to do, and I believe very few people would or could
rush madly into a totally unknown wilderness, where the nearest known
water was 650 miles away. But I had sworn to go to Perth or die in the
attempt, and I inspired the whole of my party with my own enthusiasm.
One and all declared that they would live or die with me. The natives
belonging to this place had never come near us, therefore we could get
no information concerning any other waters in this region. Owing to
the difficulty of holding conversation with wild tribes, it is highly
probable that if we had met them we should have got no information of
value from them. When wild natives can be induced to approach and
speak to the first travellers who trespass on their domains, they
simply repeat, as well as they can, every word and action of the
whites; this becomes so annoying that it is better to be without them.
When they get to be more intimate and less nervous they also generally
become more familiar, and want to see if white people are white all
over, and to satisfy their curiosity in many ways. This region
evidently does not support a very numerous tribe, and there is not
much game in it. I have never visited any part of Australia so devoid
of animal life.

On the 10th of September everything was ready, and I departed,
declaring that:--

"Though the scrubs may range around me,
My camel shall bear me on;
Though the desert may surround me,
It hath springs that shall be won."

Mounting my little fairy camel Reechy, I "whispered to her westward,
westward, and with speed she darted onward." The morning was cloudy
and cool, and I anticipated a change from the quite sufficiently hot
weather we had lately had, although I did not expect rain. We had no
notion of how far we might have to go, or how many days might elapse
before we came to any other water, but we left our friendly little dam
in high hopes and excellent spirits, hoping to discover not only
water, but some more agreeable geographical features than we had as
yet encountered. I had set my own and all my companions' lives upon a
cast, and will stand the hazard of the die, and I may add that each
one displayed at starting into the new unknown, the greatest desire
and eagerness for our attempt. On leaving the depot I had determined
to travel on a course that would enable me to reach the 30th parallel
of latitude at about its intersection with the 125th meridian of
longitude; for I thought it probable the scrubs might terminate sooner
in that direction than in one more northerly. Our course was therefore
on a bearing of south 76 degrees west; this left the line of salt
lakes Alec Ross and I had formerly visited, and which lay west, on our
right or northwards of us. Immediately after the start we entered
thick scrubs as usual; they were mostly composed of the black oak,
casuarina, with mulga and sandal-wood, not of commerce. We passed by
the edge of two small salt depressions at six and nine miles; at ten
miles we were overtaken by a shower of rain, and at eleven miles, as
it was still raining slightly, we encamped on the edge of another
lake. During the evening we saved sufficient water by means of our
tarpaulins for all our own requirements. During the night it also
rained at intervals, and we collected a lot of water and put it into a
large canvas trough used for watering the camels when they cannot
reach the water themselves. I carried two of these troughs, which held
sufficient water for them all when at a watered camp, but not
immediately after a dry stage; then they required to be filled three
or four times. On the following morning, however, as we had but just
left the depot, the camels would not drink, and as all our vessels
were full, the water in the trough had to be poured out upon the
ground as a libation to the Fates. In consequence of having to dry a
number of things, we did not get away until past midday, and at eleven
miles upon our course, after passing two small salt lagoons, we came
upon a much larger one, where there was good herbage. This we took
advantage of, and encamped there. Camels will not eat anything from
which they cannot extract moisture, by which process they are enabled
to go so long without water. The recent rain had left some sheets of
water in the lake-bed at various places, but they were all as salt as
brine--in fact brine itself.

The country we passed through to-day was entirely scrubs, except where
the salt basins intervened, and nothing but scrubs could be seen
ahead, or indeed in any other direction. The latitude of the camp on
this lake was 29 degrees 24' 8", and it was twenty-two miles from the
dam. We continued our march and proceeded still upon the same course,
still under our usual routine of steering. By the fifth night of our
travels we had met no water or any places that could hold it, and
apparently we had left all the salt basins behind. Up to this point we
had been continually in dense scrubs, but here the country became a
little more open; myal timber, acacia, generally took the places of
the mallee and the casuarinas; the spinifex disappeared, and real
grass grew in its place. I was in hopes of finding water if we should
debouch upon a plain, or perhaps discover some ranges or hills which
the scrubs might have hidden from us. On the sixth day of our march we
entered fairly on a plain, the country being very well grassed. It
also had several kinds of salsolaceous bushes upon it; these furnish
excellent fodder plants for all herbivorous animals. Although the soil
was not very good, being sand mixed with clay, it was a very hard and
good travelling country; the camels' feet left scarcely any impression
on it, and only by the flattened grass and crushed plants trodden to
earth by our heavy-weighing ships, could our trail now be followed.
The plain appeared to extend a great distance all around us. A solemn
stillness pervaded the atmosphere; nobody spoke much above a whisper.
Once we saw some wild turkey bustards, and Mr. Young managed to wing
one of them on the seventh day from the dam. On the seventh night the
cow, for which we had delayed there, calved, but her bull-calf had to
be destroyed, as we could not delay for it on the march. The old cow
was in very good condition, went off her milk in a day or two, and
continued on the journey as though nothing had occurred. On the eighth
we had cold fowl for breakfast, with a modicum of water. On the ninth
and tenth days of our march the plains continued, and I began to think
we were more liable to die for want of water on them than in the dense
and hideous scrubs we had been so anxious to leave behind. Although
the region now was all a plain, no views of any extent could be
obtained, as the country still rolled on in endless undulations at
various distances apart, just as in the scrubs. It was evident that
the regions we were traversing were utterly waterless, and in all the
distance we had come in ten days, no spot had been found where water
could lodge. It was totally uninhabited by either man or animal, not a
track of a single marsupial, emu, or wild dog was to be seen, and we
seemed to have penetrated into a region utterly unknown to man, and as
utterly forsaken by God. We had now come 190 miles from water, and our
prospects of obtaining any appeared more and more hopeless. Vainly
indeed it seemed that I might say--with the mariner on the
ocean--"Full many a green spot needs must be in this wide waste of
misery, Or the traveller worn and wan never thus could voyage on." But
where was the oasis for us? Where the bright region of rest? And now,
when days had many of them passed away, and no places had been met
where water was, the party presented a sad and solemn procession, as
though each and all of us was stalking slowly onward to his tomb. Some
murmurs of regret reached my ears; but I was prepared for more than
that. Whenever we camped, Saleh would stand before me, gaze fixedly
into my face and generally say: "Mister Gile, when you get water?" I
pretended to laugh at the idea, and say. "Water? pooh! There's no
water in this country, Saleh. I didn't come here to find water, I came
here to die, and you said you'd come and die too." Then he would
ponder awhile, and say: "I think some camel he die to-morrow, Mr.
Gile." I would say: "No, Saleh, they can't possibly live till
to-morrow, I think they will all die to-night." Then he: "Oh, Mr.
Gile, I think we all die soon now." Then I: "Oh yes, Saleh, we'll all
be dead in a day or two." When he found he couldn't get any
satisfaction out of me he would begin to pray, and ask me which was
the east. I would point south: down he would go on his knees, and
abase himself in the sand, keeping his head in it for some time.
Afterwards he would have a smoke, and I would ask: "What's the matter,
Saleh? what have you been doing?" "Ah, Mr. Gile," was his answer, "I
been pray to my God to give you a rock-hole to-morrow." I said, "Why,
Saleh, if the rock-hole isn't there already there won't be time for
your God to make it; besides, if you can get what you want by praying
for it, let me have a fresh-water lake, or a running river, that will
take us right away to Perth. What's the use of a paltry rock-hole?"
Then he said solemnly, "Ah, Mr. Gile, you not religious."

On the eleventh day the plains died off, and we re-entered a new bed
of scrubs--again consisting of mallee, casuarinas, desert sandal-wood,
and quandong-trees of the same family; the ground was overgrown with
spinifex. By the night of the twelfth day from the dam, having daily
increased our rate of progress, we had traversed scrubs more
undulating than previously, consisting of the usual kinds of trees. At
sundown we descended into a hollow; I thought this would prove the bed
of another salt lake, but I found it to be a rain-water basin or very
large clay-pan, and although there were signs of the former presence
of natives, the whole basin, grass, and herbage about it, were as dry
as the desert around. Having found a place where water could lodge, I
was certainly disappointed at finding none in it, as this showed that
no rain whatever had fallen here, where it might have remained, when
we had good but useless showers immediately upon leaving the dam. From
the appearance of the vegetation no rains could possibly have visited
this spot for many months, if not years. The grass was white and dry,
and ready to blow away with any wind.


We had now travelled 242 miles from the little dam, and I thought it
advisable here to give our lion-hearted camels a day's respite, and to
apportion out to them the water that some of them had carried for that
purpose. By the time we reached this distance from the last water,
although no one had openly uttered the word retreat, all knowing it
would be useless, still I was not unassailed by croakings of some of
the ravens of the party, who advised me, for the sake of saving our
own and some of the camels' lives, to sacrifice a certain number of
the worst, and not give these unfortunates any water at all. But I
represented that it would be cruel, wrong, and unjust to pursue such a
course, and yet expect these neglected ones still to travel on with
us; for even in their dejected state some, or even all, might actually
go as far without water as the others would go with; and as for
turning them adrift, or shooting them in a mob--which was also
mooted--so long as they could travel, that was out of the question. So
I declined all counsel, and declared it should be a case of all sink
or all swim. In the middle of the thirteenth day, during which we
rested for the purpose, the water was fairly divided among the camels;
the quantity given to each was only a little over four gallons--about
equivalent to four thimblesful to a man. There were eighteen grown
camels and one calf, Youldeh, the quantity given was about eighty
gallons. To give away this quantity of water in such a region was like
parting with our blood; but it was the creatures' right, and carried
expressly for them; and with the renewed vigour which even that small
quantity imparted to them, our own lives seemed to obtain a new lease.
Unfortunately, the old cow which calved at Youldeh, and whose she-calf
is the prettiest and nicest little pet in the world, has begun to fail
in her milk, and I am afraid the young animal will be unable to hold
out to the end of this desert, if indeed it has an end this side of
Perth. The position of this dry basin is in latitude 30 degrees 7' 3",
and longitude 124 degrees 41' 2". Since reaching the 125th meridian,
my course had been 5 degrees more southerly, and on departing from
this wretched basin on the 22nd of September, with animals greatly
refreshed and carrying much lighter loads, we immediately entered
dense scrubs, composed as usual of mallee, with its friend the
spinifex, black oaks, and numerous gigantic mallee-like gum-trees. It
seemed that distance, which lends enchantment to the view, was the
only chance for our lives; distance, distance, unknown distance seemed
to be our only goal. The country rose immediately from this depression
into high and rolling hills of sand, and here I was surprised to find
that a number of the melancholy cypress pines ornamented both the
sandy hills and the spinifex depressions through and over which we
went. Here, indeed, some few occasional signs and traces of the former
presence of natives existed. The only water they can possibly get in
this region must be from the roots of the trees. A great number of the
so-called native poplar-trees, of two varieties, Codonocarpus, were
now met, and the camels took huge bites at them as they passed by. The
smaller vegetation assumed the familiar similitude to that around the
Mount Olga of my two first horse expeditions. Two wild dog puppies
were seen and caught by my black boy Tommy and Nicholls, in the scrubs
to-day, the fourteenth from the dam. Tommy and others had also found a
few Lowans', Leipoa ocellata, nests, and we secured a few of the
pink-tinted eggs; this was the laying season. These, with the turkey
Mr. Young had shot on the plain, were the only adjuncts to our
supplies that we had obtained from this region. After to-day's stage
there was nothing but the native poplar for the camels to eat, and
they devoured the leaves with great apparent relish, though to my
human taste it is about the most disgusting of vegetables. The
following day, fifteenth from water, we accomplished twenty-six miles
of scrubs. Our latitude here was 30 degrees 17'. The country continued
to rise into sandhills, from which the only views obtainable presented
spaces precisely similar to those already traversed and left behind to
the eastwards, and if it were only from our experience of what we had
passed, that we were to gather intelligence of what was before us in
the future, then would our future be gloomy indeed.

At twelve o'clock on the sixteenth day some natives' smoke was seen
straight on our course, and also some of their foot-marks. The days
throughout this march had been warm; the thermometer at twelve
o'clock, when we let the camels lie down, with their loads on, for an
hour, usually stood at 94, 95, or 96 degrees, while in the afternoon
it was some degrees hotter. On Saturday, the 25th of September, being
the sixteenth day from the water at the Boundary Dam, we travelled
twenty-seven miles, still on our course, through mallee and spinifex,
pines, casuarinas, and quandong-trees, and noticed for the first time
upon this expedition some very fine specimens of the Australian
grass-tree, Xanthorrhoea; the giant mallee were also numerous. The
latter give a most extraordinary appearance to the scenes they adorn,
for they cheat the eye of the traveller into the belief that he is
passing through tracts of alluvial soil, and gazing, upon the
water-indicating gum-trees. This night we reached a most abominable
encampment; there was nothing that the camels could eat, and the
ground was entirely covered with great bunches of spinifex. Before us,
and all along the western horizon, we had a black-looking and scrubby
rise of very high sandhills; each of us noticed its resemblance to
those sandhills which had confronted us to the north and east when at
Youldeh. By observation we found that we were upon the same latitude,
but had reached a point in longitude 500 miles to the west of it. It
is highly probable that no water exists in a straight line between the
two places. Shortly before evening, Mr. Young was in advance steering,
but he kept so close under the sun--it being now so near the equinox,
the sun set nearly west, and our course being 21 degrees south of
west--I had to go forward and tell him that he was not steering
rightly. Of course he became indignant, and saying, "Perhaps you'll
steer, then, if you don't think I can!" he handed me the compass. I
took it in silence and steered more southerly, in the proper direction
of our course; this led us over a long white ridge of sand, and
brought us to the hollow where, as I said before, we had such a
wretched encampment. I mention this as a circumstance attaches to it.
The fate of empires at times has hung upon a thread, and our fate now
hung upon my action. We had come 323 miles without having seen a drop
of water. There was silence and melancholy in the camp; and was it to
be wondered at if, in such a region and under such circumstances,
there was:--

"A load on each spirit, a cloud o'er each soul,
With eyes that could scan not, our destiny's scroll."

Every man seemed to turn his eyes on me. I was the great centre of
attraction; every action of mine was held to have some peculiar
meaning. I was continually asked night after night if we should get
water the following day? The reply, "How can I tell?" was
insufficient; I was supposed to know to an inch where water was and
exactly when we could reach it. I believe all except the officers
thought I was making for a known water, for although I had explained
the situation before leaving the dam, it was only now that they were
beginning to comprehend its full meaning. Towards the line of dark
sandhills, which formed the western horizon, was a great fall of
country into a kind of hollow, and on the following morning, the
seventeenth day from the dam, Mr. Tietkens appeared greatly impressed
with the belief that we were in the neighbourhood of water. I said
nothing of my own impressions, for I thought something of the kind
also, although I said I would not believe it. It was Mr. Tietkens's
turn to steer, and he started on foot ahead of the string of camels
for that purpose. He gave Tommy his little riding-bull, the best
leading camel we have, and told him to go on top of a white sandhill
to our left, a little south of us, and try if he could find any fresh
blacks' tracks, or other indications of water. I did not know that
Tommy had gone, nor could I see that Tietkens was walking--it was an
extraordinary event when the whole string of camels could be seen at
once in a line in this country--and we had been travelling some two
miles and a half when Alec Ross and Peter Nicholls declared that they
heard Tommy calling out "water!" I never will believe these things
until they are proved, so I kept the party still going on. However,
even I, soon ceased to doubt, for Tommy came rushing through the
scrubs full gallop, and, between a scream and a howl, yelled out quite
loud enough now even for me to hear, "Water! water! plenty water here!
come on! come on! this way! this way! come on, Mr. Giles! mine been
find 'em plenty water!" I checked his excitement a moment and asked
whether it was a native well he had found, and should we have to work
at it with the shovel? Tommy said, "No fear shovel, that fellow water
sit down meself (i.e. itself) along a ground, camel he drink 'em
meself." Of course we turned the long string after him. Soon after he
left us he had ascended the white sandhill whither Mr. Tietkens had
sent him, and what sight was presented to his view! A little open oval
space of grass land, half a mile away, surrounded entirely by
pine-trees, and falling into a small funnel-shaped hollow, looked at
from above. He said that before he ascended the sandhill he had seen
the tracks of an emu, and on descending he found the bird's track went
for the little open circle. He then followed it to the spot, and saw a
miniature lake lying in the sand, with plenty of that inestimable
fluid which he had not beheld for more than 300 miles. He watered his
camel, and then rushed after us, as we were slowly passing on
ignorantly by this life-sustaining prize, to death and doom. Had Mr.
Young steered rightly the day before--whenever it was his turn during
that day I had had to tell him to make farther south--we should have
had this treasure right upon our course; and had I not checked his
incorrect steering in the evening, we should have passed under the
northern face of a long, white sandhill more than two miles north of
this water. Neither Tommy nor anybody else would have seen the place
on which it lies, as it is completely hidden in the scrubs; as it was,
we should have passed within a mile of it if Mr. Tietkens had not sent
Tommy to look out, though I had made up my mind not to enter the high
sandhills beyond without a search in this hollow, for my experience
told me if there was no water in it, none could exist in this terrible
region at all, and we must have found the tracks of natives, or wild
dogs or emus leading to the water. Such characters in the book of
Nature the explorer cannot fail to read, as we afterwards saw numerous
native foot-marks all about. When we arrived with the camels at this
newly-discovered liquid gem, I found it answered to Tommy's
description. It is the most singularly-placed water I have ever seen,
lying in a small hollow in the centre of a little grassy flat, and
surrounded by clumps of the funereal pines, "in a desert inaccessible,
under the shade of melancholy boughs." While watering my little camel
at its welcome waters, I might well exclaim, "In the desert a fountain
is springing"--though in this wide waste there's too many a tree. The
water is no doubt permanent, for it is supplied by the drainage of the
sandhills that surround it, and it rests on a substratum of impervious
clay. It lies exposed to view in a small open basin, the water being
only about 150 yards in circumference and from two to three feet deep.
Farther up the slopes, at much higher levels, native wells had been
sunk in all directions--in each and all of these there was water. One
large well, apparently a natural one, lay twelve or thirteen feet
higher up than the largest basin, and contained a plentiful supply of
pure water. Beyond the immediate precincts of this open space the
scrubs abound.

It may be imagined how thankful we were for the discovery of this only
and lonely watered spot, after traversing such a desert. How much
longer and farther the expedition could have gone on without water we
were now saved the necessity of guessing, but this I may truly say,
that Sir Thomas Elder's South Australian camels are second to none in
the world for strength and endurance. From both a human and humane
point of view, it was most fortunate to have found this spring, and
with it a respite, not only from our unceasing march, but from the
terrible pressure on our minds of our perilous situation; for the
painful fact was ever before us, that even after struggling bravely
through hundreds of miles of frightful scrubs, we might die like dogs
in the desert at last, unheard of and unknown. On me the most severe
was the strain; for myself I cared not, I had so often died in spirit
in my direful journeys that actual death was nothing to me. But for
vanity, or fame, or honour, or greed, and to seek the bubble
reputation, I had brought six other human beings into a dreadful
strait, and the hollow eyes and gaunt, appealing glances that were
always fixed on me were terrible to bear; but I gathered some support
from a proverb of Solomon: "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy
strength is small." Mount Churchman, the place I was endeavouring to
reach, was yet some 350 miles distant; this discovery, it was
therefore evident, was the entire salvation of the whole party.

During our march for these sixteen or seventeen days from the little
dam, I had not put the members of my party upon an actual short
allowance of water. Before we watered the camels we had over 100
gallons of water, yet the implied restraint was so great that we were
all in a continual state of thirst during the whole time, and the
small quantity of water consumed--of course we never had any tea or
coffee--showed how all had restrained themselves.


Geographical features have been terribly scarce upon this expedition,
and this peculiar spring is the first permanent water I have found. I
have ventured to dedicate it to our most gracious Queen. The great
desert in which I found it, and which will most probably extend to the
west as far as it does to the east, I have also honoured with Her
Majesty's mighty name, calling it the Great Victoria Desert, and the
spring, Queen Victoria's Spring. In future times these may be
celebrated localities in the British Monarch's dominions. I have no
Victoria or Albert Nyanzas, no Tanganyikas, Lualabas, or Zambezes,
like the great African travellers, to honour with Her Majesty's name,
but the humble offering of a little spring in a hideous desert, which,
had it surrounded the great geographical features I have enumerated,
might well have kept them concealed for ever, will not, I trust, be
deemed unacceptable in Her Majesty's eyes, when offered by a loyal and
most faithful subject.

On our arrival here our camels drank as only thirsty camels can, and
great was our own delight to find ourselves again enabled to drink at
will and indulge in the luxury of a bath. Added to both these
pleasures was a more generous diet, so that we became quite enamoured
of our new home. At this spring the thorny vegetation of the desert
grew alongside the more agreeable water-plants at the water's edge, so
that fertility and sterility stood side by side. Mr. Young planted
some seeds of numerous vegetables, plants, and trees, and among others
some of the giant bamboo, Dendrocalamus striatus, also Tasmanian blue
gum and wattles. I am afraid these products of Nature will never reach
maturity, for the natives are continually burning the rough grass and
spinifex, and on a favourably windy occasion these will consume
everything green or dry, down to the water's edge. There seems to be
very little native game here, though a number of bronze-winged pigeons
came to water at night and morning. There are, however, so many small
native wells besides the larger sheet, for them to drink at, and also
such a quantity of a thorny vegetation to screen them, that we have
not been very successful in getting any. Our best shot, Mr. Young,
succeeded in bagging only four or five. It was necessary, now that we
had found this spring, to give our noble camels a fair respite, the
more so as the food they will eat is very scarce about here, as we
have yet over 300 miles to travel to reach Mount Churchman, with every
probability of getting no water between. There are many curious flying
and creeping insects here, but we have not been fortunate in catching
many. Last night, however, I managed to secure and methylate a
good-sized scorpion. After resting under the umbrageous foliage of the
cypress-pines, among which our encampment was fixed for a week, the
party and camels had all recovered from the thirst and fatigue of our
late march, and it really seemed impossible to believe that such a
stretch of country as 325 miles could actually have been traversed
between this and the last water. The weather during our halt had been
very warm, the thermometer had tried to go over 100 degrees in the
shade, but fell short by one degree. Yesterday was an abominable day;
a heated tornado blew from the west from morning until night and
continued until this morning, when, without apparent change otherwise,
and no clouds, the temperature of the wind entirely altered and we had
an exceedingly cool and delightful day. We found the position of this
spring to be in latitude 30 degrees 25' 30" and longitude 123 degrees
21' 13". On leaving a depot and making a start early in the morning,
camels, like horses, may not be particularly inclined to fill
themselves with water, while they might do so in the middle of the
day, and thus may leave a depot on a long dry march not half filled.
The Arabs in Egypt and other camel countries, when starting for a
desert march, force the animals, as I have seen--that is, read of--to
fill themselves up by using bullocks' horns for funnels and pouring
the water down their throats till the creatures are ready to burst.
The camels, knowing by experience, so soon as the horns are stuck into
their mouths, that they are bound for a desert march, fill up

Strange to say, though I had brought from Port Augusta almost every
article that could be mentioned for the journey, yet I did not bring
any bullocks' horns, and it was too late now to send Tommy back to
procure some; we consequently could not fill up our camels at
starting, after the Arab fashion. In order to obviate any disadvantage
on this account, to-day I sent, with Mr. Tietkens and Alec Ross, three
camels, loaded with water, to be deposited about twenty-five miles on
our next line of route, so that the camels could top up en passant.
The water was to be poured into two canvas troughs and covered over
with a tarpaulin. This took two days going and coming, but we remained
yet another two, at the Queen's Spring.

Before I leave that spot I had perhaps better remark that it might
prove a very difficult, perhaps dangerous place, to any other
traveller to attempt to find, because, although there are many white
sandhills in the neighbourhood, the open space on which the water lies
is so small in area and so closely surrounded by scrubs, that it
cannot be seen from any conspicuous one, nor can any conspicuous
sandhill, distinguishable at any distance, be seen from it. It lies at
or near the south-west end of a mass of white-faced sandhills; there
are none to the south or west of it. While we remained here a few
aboriginals prowled about the camp, but they never showed themselves.
On the top of the bank, above all the wells, was a beaten corroborree
path, where these denizens of the desert have often held their feasts
and dances. Tommy found a number of long, flat, sword-like weapons
close by, and brought four or five of them into the camp. They were
ornamented after the usual Australian aboriginal fashion, some with
slanting cuts or grooves along the blade, others with square,
elliptical, or rounded figures; several of these two-handed swords
were seven feet long, and four or five inches wide; wielded with good
force, they were formidable enough to cut a man in half at a blow.

This spring could not be the only water in this region; I believe
there was plenty more in the immediate neighbourhood, as the natives
never came to water here. It was singular how we should have dropped
upon such a scene, and penetrated thus the desert's vastness, to the
scrub-secluded fastness of these Austral-Indians' home. Mr. Young and
I collected a great many specimens of plants, flowers, insects, and
reptiles. Among the flowers was the marvellous red, white, blue, and
yellow wax-like flower of a hideous little gnarled and stunted
mallee-tree; it is impossible to keep these flowers unless they could
be hermetically preserved in glass; all I collected and most carefully
put away in separate tin boxes fell to pieces, and lost their colours.
The collection of specimens of all kinds got mislaid in Adelaide. Some
grass-trees grew in the vicinity of this spring to a height of over
twenty feet. On the evening of the 5th of October a small snake and
several very large scorpions came crawling about us as we sat round
the fire; we managed to bottle the scorpions, but though we wounded
the snake it escaped; I was very anxious to methylate him also, but it
appeared he had other ideas, and I should not be at all surprised if a
pressing interview with his undertaker was one of them.

One evening a discussion arose about the moon, and Saleh was trying to
teach Tommy something, God knows what, about it. Amongst other
assertions he informed Tommy that the moon travelled from east to
west, "because, you see, Tommy," he said, "he like the sun--sun travel
west too." Tommy shook his head very sapiently, and said, "No, I don't
think that, I think moon go the other way." "No fear," said Saleh,
"how could it?" Then Peter Nicholls was asked, and he couldn't tell;
he thought Saleh was right, because the moon did set in the west. So
Tommy said, "Oh, well, I'll ask Mr. Giles," and they came to where Mr.
T, Mr. Y., and I were seated, and told us the argument. I said, "No,
Saleh, the moon travels just the other way." Then Tommy said, "I tole
you so, I know," but of course he couldn't explain himself. Saleh was
scandalised, and all his religious ideas seemed upset. So I said,
"Well, now, Saleh, you say the moon travels to the west; now do you
see where she is to-night, between those two stars?" "Oh, yes," he
said, "I see." I said, "If to-morrow night she is on the east side of
that one," pointing to one, "she must have travelled east to get
there, mustn't she?" "Oh, no," said Saleh, "she can't go there, she
must come down west like the sun," etc. In vain we showed him the next
night how she had moved still farther east among the stars; that was
nothing to him. It would have been far easier to have converted him to
Christianity than to make him alter his original opinion. With regard
to Tommy's ideas, I may say that nearly all Australian natives are
familiar with the motions of the heavenly bodies, knowing the
difference between a star and a planet, and all tribes that I have
been acquainted with have proper names for each, the moon also being a
very particular object of their attention.

While at this water we occasionally saw hawks, crows, corellas, a
pink-feathered kind of cockatoo, and black magpies, which in some
parts of the country are also called mutton birds, and pigeons. One
day Peter Nicholls shot a queer kind of carrion bird, not so large as
a crow, although its wings were as long. It had the peculiar dancing
hop of the crow, its plumage was of a dark slate colour, with whitish
tips to the wings, its beak was similar to a crow's.

We had now been at this depot for nine days, and on the 6th of October
we left it behind to the eastward, as we had done all the other
resting places we had found. I desired to go as straight as possible
for Mount Churchman. Its position by the chart is in latitude 29
degrees 58', and longitude 118 degrees. Straight lines on a map and
straight lines through dense scrubs are, however, totally different,
and, go as straight as we could, we must make it many miles farther
than its distance showed by the chart.


Depart for Mount Churchman.
Yellow-barked trees.
Wallaby traps.
Sight a low hill.
Several salt lakes.
Another hill.
Camels bogged.
Natives' smoke.
Bare rocks.
Clayey and grassy ground.
Dryness of the region.
Another mass of bare rocks.
A pretty place.
Crows and native foot-tracks.
Tommy finds a well.
Then another.
Alone on the rocks.
Voices of the angels.
Women coming for water.
First natives seen.
Arrival of the party.
Camels very thirsty but soon watered.
Two hundred miles of desert.
Natives come to the camp.
Splendid herbage.
A romantic spot.
More natives arrive.
Native ornaments.
A mouthpiece.
Cold night.
Thermometer 32 degrees.
Animals' tracks.
Natives arrive for breakfast.
Inspection of native encampment.
Old implements of white men in the camp.
A lame camel.
A little girl.
Dislikes a looking-glass.
A quiet and peaceful camp.
A delightful oasis.
Death and danger lurking near.
Scouts and spies.
A furious attack.
Personal foe.
Dispersion of the enemy.
A child's warning.
Keep a watch.
Silence at night.
Howls and screams in the morning.
The Temple of Nature.
Natives seen no more.

On the 6th October, as I have said, we departed, and at once entered
into the second division of Her Majesty Queen Victoria's great
Australian desert. That night we camped at the place where Mr.
Tietkens and Alec Ross, albeit a short measure for twenty-five miles,
had left the two troughs full of water. I had instructed them to
travel west-north-west. The country of course was all scrubs and
sandhills. We saw a few currajong-trees during our day's stage, and
where we camped there were a number of well-grown eucalyptus-trees
with yellow bark. These seemed to me very like the yellow jacket
timber that grows on watercourses in parts of New South Wales and
Queensland. The water I had sent out to this place was just sufficient
to fill up the camels. The following day, at three miles from the
camp, we came to some large granite boulders in the scrubs; but there
were no receptacles for holding water at any time. At sixteen miles we
reached a dry salt lake on our left hand; this continued near our line
for four miles. Both yesterday and to-day we saw some native wallaby
traps in the dense scrubs; these are simply long lines of sticks,
boughs, bushes, etc., which, when first laid down, may be over a foot
high; they are sometimes over a quarter of a mile long. These lines
meet each other at nearly right angles, and form a corner. For a few
yards on each side of the corner the fence is raised to between four
and five feet, made somewhat substantial and laid with boughs. Over
this is thrown either a large net or a roofing of boughs. I saw no
signs of nets in this region. The wallaby are hunted until they get
alongside the fences; if they are not flurried they will hop along it
until they get to a part which is too high, or they think it is; then
they go up into the trap, where there is a small opening, and get
knocked on the head for their pains by a black man inside. At twenty
miles we actually sighted a low hill. Here was a change. At four miles
farther we reached its foot; there were salt lake depressions nearly
all round us. Here we found a small quantity of the little pea-vetch,
which is such excellent food for the camels.

From the summit of this little hill, the first I had met for nearly
800 miles--Mount Finke was the last--another low scrubby ridge lay to
the westward, and nearly across our course, with salt lakes
intervening, and others lying nearly all round the horizon. At the
foot of the little hill we encamped. A few hundred acres of ground
were open, and there were clay-pans upon it, but no rain could have
fallen here for ages I should imagine. The hill was only 200 feet
high, and it was composed of granite stones. I was glad, however, to
see some granite crop out, as we were now approaching the western
coast-line formation; this I have always understood to be all granite,
and it was about time that something like a change of country should
occur. The following day, in making for the low range, we found
ourselves caught in the ramifications of some of the saline
depressions, and had to go a long way round to avoid them. Just before
we reached the low range we passed the shore of another salt lake,
which had a hard, firm, and quartz-pebbly bed, and we were enabled to
travel across it to the hills; these we reached in sixteen miles from
our last camp. The view from the summit was as discouraging as ever.
To the west appeared densely scrubby rises, and to the south many salt
channels existed, while in every other direction scrubs and scrubby
rises bounded the view. This low range was about 300 feet high; the
ridges beyond continued on our course, a little north of west for two
or three miles, when we again entered the sandy scrubs, and camped,
after travelling twenty-eight miles. Our position here was in latitude
30 degrees 10' 5", and longitude 122 degrees 7' 6". The next day we
had scrubs undulating as usual, and made a day's stage of twenty-four
miles, sighting at twelve miles three low ranges, northerly,
north-easterly, and east-north-easterly, the most easterly appearing
to be the highest. They were from twenty to thirty miles away from our

On the 9th and 10th October we had all scrubs; on the 11th, towards
evening, we had some scrubby ridges in front of us, and were again
hemmed in by salt lakes. To save several miles of roundabout
travelling, we attempted to cross one of these, which, though not very
broad, was exceedingly long to the north and south, and lay right
across our track. Unfortunately a number of the leading camels became
apparently hopelessly embedded in a fearful bog, and we had great
difficulty in getting them safely out. It was only by the strenuous
exertions of all hands, and by pulling up the camels' legs with ropes,
and poking tarpaulins into the vacated holes, that we finally rescued
them without loss. We then had to carry out all their loads ourselves,
and also the huge and weighty pack-saddles. We found it no easy matter
to carry 200 pounds, half a load--some of the water-casks weighed
more--on our backs, when nearly up to our necks in the briny mud, on
to the firm ground. However, we were most fortunate in having no loss
with the camels, for a camel in a bog is the most helpless creature
imaginable. Leaving the bog, we started up the shore of the lake,
northerly, where we found some more of the little pea-vetch, and
encamped, making only twenty-four miles straight from last camp. The
camels have had nothing to eat for three nights previously. We saw
some natives' smoke three or four miles away from where we camped, and
as there were ridges near it, I intend to send some one there in the
morning to look for water.

We had still some miles to go, to get round the northern end of the
boggy lake. Alec Ross and Tommy walked across, to hunt up any traces
of natives, etc., and to look for water. On clearing this boggy
feature, we ascended into some densely scrubby granite rises; these
had some bare rocks exposed here and there, but no indentations for
holding water could be seen. At fifteen or sixteen miles, having
passed all the ridges, and entered scrubs and mallee again, Alec and
Tommy overtook us, Mr. Young having remained behind with their camels,
and reported that they had found one small rock-hole. Alec said it had
twenty or thirty gallons of water in it, but Tommy said there was only
a little drop, so I did not think it worth while to delay by sending
any camels back so far for so little reward. We saw two or three dozen
grass-trees to-day, also some quandong and currajong trees, and camped
again in scrubs where there was only a few leguminous bushes for the
camels to eat. We had travelled twenty-eight miles, which only made
twenty-four straight. The last three days had been warm, the
thermometer going up to 98 degrees in the shade each day at about
twelve o'clock; the camels were very thirsty, and would not feed as
the provender was so very poor.

During the last few days we had met with occasional patches of grassy
and clayey ground, generally where the yellow-barked eucalypts grew,
and we passed numerous small clay-channels and pans, in which
rain-water might lodge for some time after a shower, but it was
evident from the appearance of the grass and vegetation that no rains
could have visited the region for a year, or it might be for a hundred
years; every vegetable thing seemed dry, sere, or dead. On the 13th of
October, at twelve miles from camp, we passed over some more scrubby
granite ridges, where some extent of bare rock lay exposed. I searched
about it, but the indents were so small and shallow that water could
not remain in them for more than a week after rains had filled them.
While I was searching on foot, Mr. Young and Tommy, from their camels'
backs, saw another mass of bare rocks further away to the north-west.
I took Tommy with me, on Reechy, and we went over to the spot, while
the party continued marching on; on arriving we found a very pretty
piece of scenery. Several hundred acres of bare rocks, with grassy
flats sloping down from them to the west, and forming little
watercourses or flat water-channels; there were great numbers of
crows, many fresh natives' tracks, and the smoke of several fires in
the surrounding scrub. Tommy took the lower ground, while I searched
the rocks. He soon found a small native well in a grassy
water-channel, and called out to me. On joining him I found that there
was very little water in sight, but I thought a supply might be got
with a shovel, and I decided to send him on my camel to bring the
party back, for we had come over 200 miles from Queen Victoria's
Spring, and this was the first water I had seen since leaving there.
We gave little Reechy, or as I usually called her Screechy, all the
water we could get out of the well, with one of Tommy's boots; she
drank it out of his hat, and they started away. I fully believed there
was more water about somewhere, and I intended having a good hunt
until either I found it or the party came. I watched Tommy start, of
course at full speed, for when he got a chance of riding Screechy he
was in his glory, and as she was behind the mob, and anxious to
overtake them, she would go at the rate of twenty miles an hour, if
allowed to gallop; but much to my surprise, when they had gone about
200 yards along the grassy water-channel, apparently in an instant,
down went Reechy on her knees, and Tommy, still in the saddle, yelled
out to me, "Plenty water here! plenty water here!" Reechy, who had not
had half enough at the first place, would not go past this one.

I walked down and saw a large well with a good body of water in it,
evidently permanently supplied by the drainage of the mass of bare
rocks in its vicinity. I was greatly pleased at Tommy's discovery, and
after giving Reechy a thorough good drink, off he went like a rocket
after the party. I wandered about, but found no other water-place; and
then, thinking of the days that were long enough ago, I sat in the
shade of an umbrageous acacia bush. Soon I heard the voices of the
angels, native black and fallen angels, and their smokes came
gradually nearer. I thought they must have seen me on the top of the
rocks, and desired to make my further acquaintance. The advancing
party, however, turned out to be only two women coming for water to
the well. They had vessels, usually called coolamins--these are small
wooden troughs, though sometimes made of bark, and are shaped like
miniature canoes--for carrying water to their encampment. When they
came near enough to see what I was, they ran away a short distance,
then stopped, turned round, and looked at me. Of course I gave a
gentle bow, as to something quite uncommon; a man may bend his lowest
in a desert to a woman. I also made signs for them to come to the
well, but they dropped their bark coolamins and walked smartly off. I
picked up these things, and found them to be of a most original, or
rather aboriginal, construction. They were made of small sheets of the
yellow-tree bark, tied up at the ends with bark-string, thus forming
small troughs. When filled, some grass or leaves are put on top of the
water to prevent it slopping over. The women carry these troughs on
their heads. I was not near enough to distinguish whether the women
were beautiful or not; all I could make out was that one was young and
fatter than the other. Amongst aborigines of every clime fatness goes
a great way towards beauty. The youngest and fattest was the last to

These were the first natives I had seen upon this expedition; no
others appeared while I was by myself. In about four hours the party
arrived; they had travelled six miles past the place when Tommy
overtook them. We soon watered all the camels; they were extremely
thirsty, for they had travelled 202 miles from Queen Victoria's
Spring, although, in a straight line, we were only 180 miles from it.
Almost immediately upon the arrival of the caravan, a number of native
men and one young boy made their appearance. They were apparently
quiet and inoffensive, and some of them may have seen white people
before, for one or two spoke a few English words, such as "white
fellow," "what name," "boy," etc. They seemed pleased, but astonished
to see the camels drink such an enormous quantity of water; they
completely emptied the well, and the natives have probably never seen
it empty before. The water drained in pretty fast: in an hour the well
was as full as ever, and with much purer water than formerly. There
was plenty of splendid herbage and leguminous bushes here for the
camels. It is altogether a most romantic and pretty place; the little
grassy channels were green and fresh-looking, and the whole space for
a mile around open, and dotted with shady acacia trees and bushes.
Between two fine acacias, nearly under the edge of a huge, bare
expanse of rounded rock, our camp was fixed. The slope of the whole
area is to the west.

It reminded me of Wynbring more than any other place I have seen. At
first only eight natives made their appearance, and Mr. Young cut up a
red handkerchief into as many strips. These we tied around their regal
brows, and they seemed exceedingly proud of themselves. Towards
evening three or four more came to the camp; one had a large piece of
pearl oyster-shell depending from a string round his neck, another had
a queer ornament made of short feathers also depending from the neck;
it looked like the mouth of a porte-monnaie. When I wished to examine
it, the wearer popped it over his mouth, and opened that extensive
feature to its fullest dimensions, laughing most heartily. He had a
very theatrical air, and the extraordinary mouthpiece made him look
like a demon in, or out of, a pantomime. In taking this ornament off
his neck he broke the string, and I supplied him with a piece of
elastic band, so that he could put it on and off without undoing it,
whenever he pleased; but the extraordinary phenomenon to him of the
extension of a solid was more than he was prepared for, and he
scarcely liked to allow it to touch his person again. I put it over my
head first, and this reassured him, so that he wore it again as usual.
They seemed a very good-natured lot of fellows, and we gave them a
trifle of damper and sugar each. During the morning, before we arrived
here, Tommy had been most successful in obtaining Lowans' eggs, and we
had eleven or twelve with us. When the natives saw these, which no
doubt they looked upon as their own peculiar and lawful property, they
eyed them with great anxiety, and, pointing to them, they spoke to one
another, probably expecting that we should hand the eggs over to them;
but we didn't do it. At night they went away; their camp could not be
far off, as we continually heard the sounds of voices and could see
their camp fires. Before sunrise the following morning the mercury
fell to 32 degrees; although there was no dew to freeze, to us it
appeared to be 100 degrees below zero. The only animals' tracks seen
round our well were emus, wild dogs, and Homo sapiens. Lowans and
other desert birds and marsupials appear never to approach the

Our sable friends came very early to breakfast, and brought a few more
whom we had not previously seen; also two somewhat old and faded
frail, if not fair, ones; soon after a little boy came by himself.
This young imp of Satan was just like a toad--all mouth and stomach.
It appeared these natives practise the same rites of incision,
excision, and semi-circumcision as the Fowler's Bay tribes; and Tommy,
who comes from thence, said he could understand a few words these
people spoke, but not all; he was too shy to attempt a conversation
with them, but he listened to all they said, and occasionally
interpreted a few of their remarks to us. These principally referred
to where he could have come from and what for. To-day Alec Ross and
Peter Nicholls walked over to the natives' encampment, and reported
that most of the men who had been to our camp were sitting there with
nothing to eat in the camp; the women being probably out on a hunting
excursion, whilst they, as lords of creation, waited quietly at their
club till dinner should be announced. They got very little from me, as
I had no surplus food to spare. Nicholls told me they had some tin
billies and shear-blades in the camp, and I noticed that one of the
first batch we saw had a small piece of coarse cloth on; another had a
piece of horse's girth webbing. On questioning the most civilised, and
inquiring about some places, whose native names were given on my
chart, I found they knew two or three of these, and generally pointed
in the proper directions. It was evident they had often seen white
people before, if, they had never eaten any.

One of our cow camels had been very lame for two or three days, and
now we found she had a long mulga stake stuck up through the thick
sole of her spongy foot. I got a long piece out with knife and plyers,
but its removal did not appear to improve her case, for the whole
lower part of her leg was more swollen after than before the
extraction of the wood, but I hoped a day or two would put her right.
Yesterday, the 15th of October, Mr. Young managed to get the name of
this place from the natives. They call it Ularring, with the accent on
the second syllable. It is a great relief to my mind to get it, as it
saves me the invidious task of selecting only one name by which to
call the place from the list of my numerous friends. This morning,
16th, our usual visitors arrived; two are most desirous to go westward
with us when we start. A little later a very pretty little girl came
by herself. She was about nine or ten years old, and immediately
became the pet of the camp. All the people of this tribe are
excessively thin, and so was this little creature. She had splendid
eyes and beautiful teeth, and we soon dressed her up, and gave her a
good breakfast. In an hour after her arrival she was as much at home
in my camp as though I were her father. She is a merry little thing,
but we can't understand a word she says. She evidently takes a great
interest in everything she sees at the camp, but she didn't seem to
care to look at herself in a glass, though the men always did.

While we were at dinner to-day a sudden whirl-wind sprang up and sent
a lot of my loose papers, from where I had been writing, careering so
wildly into the air, that I was in great consternation lest I should
lose several sheets of my journal, and find my imagination put to the
test of inventing a new one. We all ran about after the papers, and so
did some of the blacks, and finally they were all recovered. Mr. Young
cut my initials and date thus: E. over G. over 75., upon a Grevillea
or beef-wood-tree, which grew close to the well. While here we have
enjoyed delightful weather; gentle breezes and shady tree(es), quiet
and inoffensive aboriginals, with pretty children in the midst of a
peaceful and happy camp, situated in charming scenery amidst fantastic
rocks, with beautiful herbage and pure water for our almighty beasts.
What a delightful oasis in the desert to the weary traveller! The
elder aboriginals, though the words of their mouths were smoother than
butter, yet war was in their hearts. They appeared to enjoy our
company very well. "Each in his place allotted, had silent sat or
squatted, while round their children trotted, in pretty youthful play.
One can't but smile who traces the lines on their dark faces, to the
pretty prattling graces of these small heathens gay."

The 16th October, 1875, was drawing to a close, as all its
predecessors from time's remotest infancy have done; the cheery voice
of the expedition cook had called us to our evening meal; as usual we
sat down in peaceful contentment, not dreaming that death or danger
was lurking near, but nevertheless, outside this peaceful scene a
mighty preparation for our destruction was being made by an army of
unseen and unsuspected foes.

"The hunting tribes of air and earth
Respect the brethren of their birth;
Man only mars kind Nature's plan,
And turns the fierce pursuit on man."


Our supper was spread, by chance or Providential interference, a
little earlier than usual. Mr. Young, having finished his meal first,
had risen from his seat. I happened to be the last at the festive
board. In walking towards the place where his bedding was spread upon
the rocks, he saw close to him, but above on the main rock, and at
about the level of his eyes, two unarmed natives making signs to the
two quiet and inoffensive ones that were in the camp, and
instantaneously after he saw the front rank of a grand and imposing
army approaching, guided by the two scouts in advance. I had not much
time to notice them in detail, but I could see that these warriors
were painted, feathered, and armed to the teeth with spears, clubs,
and other weapons, and that they were ready for instant action. Mr.
Young gave the alarm, and we had only just time to seize our firearms
when the whole army was upon us. At a first glance this force was most
imposing; the coup d'oeil was really magnificent; they looked like
what I should imagine a body of Comanche Indians would appear when
ranged in battle line. The men were closely packed in serried ranks,
and it was evident they formed a drilled and perfectly organised
force. Immediate action became imminent, and as most fortunately they
had thought to find us seated at supper, and to spear us as we sat in
a body together, we had just time, before fifty, sixty, or a hundred
spears could be thrown at us, as I immediately gave the command to
fire, to have the first discharge at them. Had it been otherwise not
one of us could possibly have escaped their spears--all would
certainly have been killed, for there were over a hundred of the
enemy, and they approached us in a solid phalanx of five or six rows,
each row consisting of eighteen or twenty warriors. Their project no
doubt was, that so soon as any of us was speared by the warriors, the
inoffensive spies in the camp were to tomahawk us at their leisure, as
we rolled about in agony from our wounds; but, taken by surprise,
their otherwise exceedingly well-organised attack, owing to a slight
change in our supper-hour, was a little too late, and our fire caused
a great commotion and wavering in their legion's ordered line. One of
the quiet and inoffensive spies in the camp, as soon as he saw me jump
up and prepare for action, ran and jumped on me, put his arms round my
neck to prevent my firing, and though we could not get a word of
English out of him previously, when he did this, he called out,
clinging on to me, with his hand on my throat, "Don't, don't!" I don't
know if I swore, but I suppose I must, as I was turned away from the
thick array with most extreme disgust. I couldn't disengage myself; I
couldn't attend to the main army, for I had to turn my attention
entirely to this infernal encumbrance; all I could do was to yell out
"Fire! fire for your lives." I intended to give the spy a taste of my
rifle first, but in consequence of his being in such close quarters to
me, and my holding my rifle with one hand, while I endeavoured to free
myself with the other, I could not point the muzzle at my assailant,
and my only way of clearing myself from his hold was by battering his
head with the butt end of the weapon with my right hand, while he
still clung round my left side. At last I disengaged myself, and he
let go suddenly, and slipped instantly behind one of the thick acacia
bushes, and got away, just as the army in front was wavering. All this
did not occupy many seconds of time, and I believe my final shot
decided the battle. The routed army, carrying their wounded,
disappeared behind the trees and bushes beyond the bare rock where the
battle was fought, and from whence not many minutes before they had so
gallantly emerged. This was the best organised and most disciplined
aboriginal force I ever saw. They must have thoroughly digested their
plan of attack, and sent not only quiet and inoffensive spies into the
camp, but a pretty little girl also, to lull any suspicions of their
evil intentions we might have entertained. Once during the day the
little girl sat down by me and began a most serious discourse in her
own language, and as she warmed with her subject she got up,
gesticulated and imitated the action of natives throwing spears,
pointed towards the natives' camp, stamped her foot on the ground
close to me, and was no doubt informing me of the intended onslaught
of the tribe. As, however, I did not understand a word she said, I did
not catch her meaning either; besides, I was writing, and she nearly
covered me with dust, so that I thought her a bit of a juvenile bore.

After the engagement we picked up a great number of spears and other
weapons, where the hostile army had stood. The spears were long,
light, and barbed, and I could not help thinking how much more I liked
them on my outside than my in. I destroyed all the weapons I could lay
hold of, much to the disgust of the remaining spy, who had kept quiet
all through the fray. He seems to be some relative of the little girl,
for they always go about together; she may probably be his intended
wife. During the conflict, this little creature became almost frantic
with excitement, and ran off to each man who was about to fire,
especially Nicholls, the cook, with whom she seemed quite in love,
patting him on the back, clapping her small hands, squeaking out her
delight, and jumping about like a crow with a shirt on. While the
fight was in progress, in the forgetfulness of his excitation, my
black boy Tommy began to speak apparently quite fluently in their
language to the two spies, keeping up a running conversation with them
nearly all the time. It seemed that the celebrated saying of
Talleyrand, "Language was only given to man to conceal his thought,"
was thoroughly understood by my seemingly innocent and youthful
Fowler's Bay native. When I taxed him with his extraordinary conduct,
he told me the natives had tried to induce him to go with them to
their camp, but his natural timidity had deterred him and saved his
life; for they would certainly have killed him if he had gone. After
the attack, Tommy said, "I tole you black fellow coming," though we
did not recollect that he had done so. The spy who had fastened on to
me got away in an opposite direction to that taken by the defeated
army. The other spy and the girl remained some little time after the
action, and no one saw them depart, although we became at last aware
of their absence. We kept watch during the night, as a precaution
after such an attack, although I had not instituted watching
previously. There was a dead silence in the direction of the enemy's
encampment, and no sounds but those of our camel-bells disturbed the
stillness of the luminous and lunar night.

On the following morning, at earliest dawn, the screams and howls of a
number of the aborigines grated harshly upon our ears, and we expected
and prepared for a fresh attack. The cries continued for some time,
but did not approach any nearer. After breakfast, the little girl and
her protector, the quietest of the two spies, made their appearance at
the camp as composedly as though nothing disagreeable had occurred to
mar our friendship, but my personal antagonist did not reappear--he
probably had a headache which kept him indoors. I had given the girl a
shirt when she first came to the camp, and Peter Nicholls had given
her protector an old coat, which was rather an elongated affair; on
their arrival this morning, these graceful garments had been
exchanged, and the girl appeared in the coat, trailing two feet on the
ground, and the man wore the shirt, which scarcely adorned him enough.
I gave them some breakfast and they went away, but returned very
punctually to dinner. Then I determined not to allow them to remain
any longer near us, so ordered them off, and they departed, apparently
very reluctantly. I felt very much inclined to keep the little girl.
Although no doubt they still continued watching us, we saw them no

I got Mr. Young to plant various seeds round this well. No doubt there
must be other waters in this neighbourhood, as none of the natives
have used our well since we came, but we could not find any other.

The following day was Sunday. What a scene our camp would have
presented to-day had these reptiles murdered us! It does not strike
the traveller in the wilderness, amongst desert scenes and hostile
Indians, as necessary that he should desire the neighbourhood of a
temple, or even be in a continual state of prayer, yet we worship
Nature, or the God of Nature, in our own way; and although we have no
chapel or church to go to, yet we are always in a temple, which a
Scottish poet has so beautifully described as "The Temple of Nature."
He says:--

"Talk not of temples; there is one,
Built without hands, to mankind given;
Its lamps are the meridian sun,
And the bright stars of heaven.
Its walls are the cerulean sky,
Its floor the earth so green and fair;
Its dome is vast immensity:
All nature worships there."

We, of a surety, have none of the grander features of Nature to
admire; but the same Almighty Power which smote out the vast Andean
Ranges yet untrod, has left traces of its handywork here. Even the
great desert in which we have so long been buried must suggest to the
reflecting mind either God's perfectly effected purpose, or His
purposely effected neglect; and, though I have here and there found
places where scanty supplies of the element of water were to be found,
yet they are at such enormous distances apart, and the regions in
which they exist are of so utterly worthless a kind, that it seems to
be intended by the great Creator that civilised beings should never
re-enter here. And then our thoughts must naturally wander to the
formation and creation of those mighty ships of the desert, that alone
could have brought us here, and by whose strength and incomprehensible
powers of endurance, only are we enabled to leave this desert behind.
In our admiration of the creature, our thoughts are uplifted in
reverence and worship to the Designer and Creator of such things,
adapted, no doubt, by a wise selection from an infinite variety of
living forms, for myriads of creative periods, and with a
foreknowledge that such instruments would be requisite for the
intelligent beings of a future time, to traverse those areas of the
desert earth that it had pleased Him in wisdom to permit to remain
secluded from the more lovely places of the world and the familiar
haunts of civilised man. Here, too, we find in this fearful waste,
this howling wilderness, this country vast and desert idle, places
scooped out of the solid rock, and the mighty foundations of the round
world laid bare, that the lower organism of God's human family may
find their proper sustenance; but truly the curse must have gone forth
more fearfully against them, and with a vengeance must it have been
proclaimed, by the sweat of their brows must they obtain their bread.
No doubt it was with the intention of obtaining ours, thus reaping the
harvest of unfurrowed fields, that these natives were induced to make
so murderous an attack upon us. We neither saw nor heard anything more
of our sable enemies, and on the 18th we departed out of their coasts.
This watering place, Ularring, is situated in latitude 29 degrees 35',
and longitude 120 degrees 31' 4".


Depart from Ularring.
Re-enter scrubs.
Scrubs more dense.
A known point.
Magnetic rocks.
Lowans' eggs.
Numbers of the birds.
Crows, hawks.
Natives and water.
Induce natives to decamp.
Unusually vigorous growth of scrubs.
Alec sights Mount Churchman.
Bronze-winged pigeons.
Pigeon Rocks.
Edge of a cliff.
Mount Churchman in view.
Some natives arrive.
A wandering pet.
Lake Moore.
Strike old dray tracks.
An outlying sheep-station.
The first white man seen.
Dinner of mutton.
Exploring at an end.
Civilisation once more.
All sorts and conditions come to interview us.
A monastery.
A feu-de-joie.
The first telegraph station.
Congratulatory messages.
Intimations of receptions.
A triumphal march.
Messrs. Clunes Brothers.
An address.
White ladies.
A triumphal arch.
A fine tonic.
Tommy's speech.
Unscientific profanity.
Guildford on the Swan.
Arrival at Perth.
Reception by the Mayor.
The city decorated.
Arrival at the Town Hall.
A shower of garlands.
A beautiful address.
A public reception at Fremantle.
Return to Perth.
And festivities.


On the 18th we departed. Mount Churchman was now not much more than
150 miles away. I felt sure we should reach it at last. It was late in
the day when we left the camp, and immediately re-entered the dense
and odious scrubs, which were more than usually thick. We passed a
small salt-lake bed on our right, and made good twenty miles by night,
which fell with cold and wind and threatened rain. At three or four
miles the next morning, we saw some bare granite rocks to the south,
and noticed the tops of some low ranges to the north, but these were
partially hidden by some nearer ridges. The summit of one of these was
a mass of exposed rock, similar in appearance to Ularring and
remarkably high, but as it was five or six miles away from our line,
which was now nearly west, we did not visit it. At fifteen miles from
camp we sighted from the top of an undulation in the scrub, a pointed
hill a little south of west, also another higher and longer, and lying
more southerly. We could not reach the pointed hill by night. The
country is now more densely scrubby than ever, and although we toiled
the whole day, we only made good twenty-four miles. Upon nearing the
hill the following morning we saw some grass-trees and passed between
two salt-lakes. At ten miles Mr. Young and I were upon the top of the
hill; the scrubs surrounding it were so terribly thick that I thought
we should have to chop our way through them, and we had the greatest
difficulty in getting the caravan to move along at all. I was much
surprised at the view I obtained here; in the first place as we were
now gradually approaching Mount Churchman, the hill to the south was,
or should have been, Mount Jackson, but according to my chart there
were no hills visible in any easterly or northeasterly direction from
Mount Jackson, whereas from the range to the south, not only the hill
I was upon, but all the others in various directions, must also have
been seen from it. This was rather puzzling, and the only way I could
account for the anomaly was that either Gregory had never ascended
Mount Jackson at all, though according to his map he calls the whole
eastern country beyond it sand plains, or these hills have been thrown
up since 1846. The latter I cannot believe. The composition of this
hill was almost iron itself, and there were some fused stones like
volcanic slag upon it. It was too magnetic for working angles with a
compass; it was between 500 and 600 feet above the surrounding
regions. The horizon from east, north-east, round by north, thence to
the west and south, was bounded by low ranges, detached into seven
groups; the white beds of small lakes were visible running up to the
northern, or north eastern group, the intervening country being, as
usual, all scrubs, which grew even to the summits of the hills. The
view from this hill was enough to terrify the spectator; my only
consolation in gazing at so desolate a scene, was that my task was
nearly accomplished, and nothing should stop me now. A second pointed
hill lay nearly west, and we pushed on to this, but could not reach it
by night.

To-day we managed to get thirty-four Lowans' eggs, yesterday we had
secured twenty-seven. These birds swarm in these scrubs, and their
eggs form a principal item in the daily fare of the natives during the
laying season. We seldom see the birds, but so long as we get the eggs
I suppose we have no great cause of complaint. In the morning we
reached and ascended the second hill. Some other hills a few miles
away ended nearly west, and bare granite rocks appeared a few miles
beyond them, which I determined to visit. This hill was of similar
formation to the last-described. The far horizon to the west being all
scrub, Mount Churchman should have been visible, but it was not. The
sight of the country from any of these hills is truly frightful; it
seemed as though the scrubs were to end only with our journey. On
descending, we pushed on for the rocks, and reached them in twelve
miles from the last camp. As we neared them, we could distinguish a
large extent of bare rock, and it seemed likely that we should find
water, as we saw a number of crows and hawks, and we soon became aware
of the presence of natives also, for they began to yell so soon as
they perceived our approach. A well was soon found, and our camp fixed
beside it. The natives were numerous here, but whether they were our
old enemies or not I could not say; yet I fancied I recognised one or
two among them, and to let them see that our ammunition was not yet
exhausted, I fired my rifle in the air. This had the effect of
inducing them, whether friends or foes, to decamp, and we were not
troubled with them while we were here. I did not wish for a repetition
of the Ularring affair. The well was shallow, with a good supply of
water, and there were a few scores of acres of open ground around the
rocks, though the scrubs came as close as possible. This spot was
seventy-seven miles from Ularring; our well was situated at what may
be called the north-east corner of these rocks; at the south-west end
there is another and larger valley, where I saw two wells. On Sunday,
the 22nd of October, we rested here. The old lame cow is still very
bad, I am afraid she cannot travel much farther. Yesterday and to-day
were rather warm, the thermometer indicating 94 and 96 degrees in the
shade. The upheaval of the few hills we have lately passed seems to
have induced an unusually vigorous growth of scrubs, for they are now
denser and more hideous than ever.

Alec Ross stated that he had seen, from the last hill, another, far
away, due west, but nobody else saw it. If such a hill exists it is
over eighty miles away from where seen, and it must be Mount
Churchman. No views to any distance could be had from these rocks, as
the undulations of the scrubs occur continuously throughout the
desert, at almost regular intervals of a few miles, from seven to

After dinner on the 23rd I had intended to leave this place, but upon
mustering the camels I found that not only was the lame cow worse, but
another of the cows had calved, and our family was increased by the
advent of a little cow-calf about the size of a rabbit. This prevented
our departure. The calf was killed, and the mother remained with her
dead offspring, whereby she comprehended her loss, and this will
prevent her endeavouring to return to it after we leave. We obtained a
good many bronze-winged pigeons here, and I called the place the
Pigeon Rocks. Their position is in latitude 29 degrees 58' 4" and
longitude 119 degrees 15' 3". To-day the thermometer rose to 100
degrees in the shade, and at night a very squally thunderstorm, coming
from the west, agreeably cooled the atmosphere, although no rain fell.
On the 24th we left the Pigeon Rocks, still steering west, and
travelled twenty-five miles through the dense scrubs, with an
occasional break, on which a few of the yellow-bark gum-trees grew.
They are generally of a vigorous and well grown habit. The poor old
lame cow followed as usual, but arrived at the camp a long while after
us. The next day we progressed twenty-five miles to the westward, and
at evening we tore through a piece of horrible scrub, or thickets, and
arrived at the edge of a cliff which stood, perpendicularly, 200 feet
over the surrounding country. This we had to circumnavigate in order
to descend.

Right on our course, being in the proper latitude, and twenty-seven or
twenty-eight miles away, was a small hill, the object I had traversed
so many hundreds of miles of desert to reach, and which I was
delighted to know, was Mount Churchman. The country between the cliff
and Mount Churchman was filled to overflowing with the densest of
scrubs; Nature seemed to have tried how much of it she could possibly
jam into this region. We encamped at the foot of the cliff. We got
several Lowans'--or, as the West Australians call them, Gnows'--eggs,
thirty yesterday, and forty-five to-day. At night the old lame cow did
not arrive at the camp, nor was she with the mob the next morning; I
wished her to remain at the Pigeon Rocks, but of course she persisted
in following her kindred so long as she could, but now she has
remained behind of her own accord, she will no doubt return there, and
if she recovers will most probably go back to Beltana by herself,
perhaps exploring a new line of country on the way.


The following day we hoped to reach Mount Churchman, but the scrubs
were so frightful we could not get there by night, though we travelled
without stopping for twelve hours. To-day we got only twenty eggs.
To-night and last night a slight dew fell, the first for a long time.
Early on the morning of the 27th of October I stood upon the summit of
Mount Churchman; and, though no mention whatever is made upon the
chart of the existence of water there, we found a native well which
supplied all our wants. In the afternoon some natives made their
appearance; they were partly clothed. The party consisted of an oldish
man, a very smart and good-looking young fellow, and a handsome little
boy. The young fellow said his own name was Charlie, the boy's Albert,
and the older one's Billy. It is said a good face is the best letter
of introduction, but Charlie had a better one, as I had lost a little
ivory-handled penknife on the road yesterday, and they had come
across, and followed our tracks, and picked it up. Charlie, without a
moment's questioning, brought it to me; he was too polite, too
agreeable altogether, and evidently knew too much; he knew the country
all the way to Perth, and also to Champion Bay. It occurred to me that
he had been somebody's pet black boy, that had done something, and had
bolted away. He told me the nearest station to us was called Nyngham,
Mount Singleton on the chart, in a north-west direction. The station
belonged, he said, to a Mr. Cook, and that we could reach it in four
days, but as I wished to make south-westerly for Perth, I did not go
that way. The day was very warm, thermometer 99 degrees in shade.


This mount is called Geelabing on the chart, but Charlie did not know
it by that name. He and the other two came on and camped with us that
night. Our course was nearly south-west; we only travelled eleven
miles. The following day our three friends departed, as they said, to
visit Nyngham, while we pursued our own course, and reached the shores
of the dry salt-lake Moore. In about thirty miles we found some rock
water-holes, and encamped on the edge of the lake, where we saw old
horse and cattle tracks. We next crossed the lake-bed, which was seven
miles wide. No doubt there is brine in some parts of it, but where I
crossed it was firm and dry. We left it on the 30th of October, and
travelling upon a course nearly west-south-west, we struck some old
dray tracks, at a dried-up spring, on the 3rd of November, which I did
not follow, as they ran eastwards. From there I turned south, and
early on the 4th we came upon an outlying sheep station; its buildings
consisting simply of a few bark-gunyahs. There was not even a single,
rude hut in the dingle; blacks' and whites' gunyahs being all alike.
Had I not seen some clothes, cooking utensils, etc., at one of them, I
should have thought that only black shepherds lived there. A shallow
well, and whip for raising the water into a trough, was enclosed by a
fence, and we watered our camels there. The sheep and shepherd were
away, and although we were desperately hungry for meat, not having had
any for a month, we prepared to wait until the shepherd should come
home in the evening. While we were thinking over these matters, a
white man came riding up. He apparently did not see us, nor did his
horse either, until they were quite close; then his horse suddenly
stopped and snorted, and he shouted out, "Holy sailor, what's that?"
He was so extraordinarily surprised at the appearance of the caravan
that he turned to gallop away. However, I walked to, and reassured
him, and told him who I was and where I had come from. Of course he
was an Irishman, and he said, "Is it South Austhralia yez come from?
Shure I came from there meself. Did yez crass any say? I don't know,
sure I came by Albany; I never came the way you've come at all. Shure,
I wilcome yez, in the name of the whole colony. I saw something about
yez in the paper not long ago. Can I do anything for yez? This is not
my place, but the shepherd is not far; will I go and find him?"
"Faith, you may," I said, "and get him to bring the flock back, so
that we can get a sheep for dinner." And away he went, and soon
returned with the shepherd, sheep, black assistants and their wives;
and we very soon had a capital meal of excellent mutton. While it was
in process of cooking the shepherd despatched a black boy to the
nearest farm, or settlement, for coffee, butter, sugar, eggs, etc. The
messenger returned at night with everything. Exploring had now come to
an end; roads led to, and from, all the other settled districts of the
colony, and we were in the neighbourhood of civilisation once more.
This out-station was the farthest attempt at settlement towards the
east, in this part of the colony. It was called Tootra, and belonged
to the Messrs. Clunes Brothers, who live lower down the country.

On the 6th of November we passed by the farm where the black boy had
got the coffee, sugar, etc.; it belonged to a Mr. Joyce. We did not
stay there very long, the people did not seem to know what to make of,
and never said anything to, us. That evening we reached Mr. Clarke's
homestead, called Inderu, where we were treated with the greatest
kindness by every member of the family. They gave us eggs, butter,
jam, and spirits, and despatched a messenger with a letter to Sir
Thomas Elder's agent at Fremantle. Here we were also met by young Mr.
Lefroy, son of the Hon. O'Grady Lefroy, Treasurer and acting Colonial
Secretary for the Colony, who took us off to his station, Walebing,
where we remained some days, thoroughly enjoying a recruiting at so
agreeable a place. We had to depart at last, and were next entertained
by Mr. and Mrs. McPherson, as we passed by their station called
Glentromie. So soon as the news spread amongst the settlers that a
caravan of camels had arrived, bushmen and girls, boys and children,
came galloping from all parts, while their elders drove whatever
vehicles they could lay their hands on, to come and see the new
arrivals. The camels were quite frightened at the people galloping
about them. Our next reception was at a Spanish Benedictine Monastery
and Home for natives, called New Norcia. This Monastery was presided
over by the Right Reverend Lord Bishop Salvado, the kindest and most
urbane of holy fathers. We were saluted on our arrival, by a regular
feu-de-joie, fired off by the natives and half-castes belonging to the
mission. The land and property of this establishment is some of the
best in the Colony. Here was the first telegraph station we had
reached, and I received a number of congratulatory telegrams from most
of the leading gentlemen in Perth; from His Excellency the Governor's
private secretary, the Press, and my brother-explorer Mr. John


Intimations of intended receptions, by corporations, and addresses to
be presented, with invitations to banquets and balls, poured in, in
overwhelming numbers; so that on leaving the Monastery I knew the
series of ordeals that were in store for me. His Excellency the
Governor, Sir William Robinson, K.C.M.G., most kindly despatched Mr.
John Forrest with a carriage to meet us. From the Monastery our
triumphal march began. The appearance of a camel caravan in any
English community, away from camel countries, is likely to awaken the
curiosity of every one; but it is quite a matter of doubt whether we,
or the camels caused the greater sensation as we advanced. A few miles
from the monastery we passed the station of Messrs. Clunes Brothers,
at whose farthest out-station we had first come upon a settlement.
These gentlemen were most kind and hospitable, and would not accept
any payment for two fine wether sheep which we had eaten. A short
distance from their residence we passed a district country
school-house, presided over by Mr. J.M. Butler, and that gentleman, on
behalf of Messrs. Clunes, the residents of the locality, his scholars,
and himself, presented us with a congratulatory address. Pushing
onwards towards the metropolis we arrived, on Saturday, November 13th,
at Mr. Samuel Phillips's station, Culham, where that gentleman invited
us to remain during Sunday. Here, for the first time, we had the
pleasure of enjoying the society of ladies, being introduced to Mrs.
Phillips, her sister-in-law Mrs. Fane, and their several daughters.
The whole family combined to make us welcome, and as much at home as
possible. Here also Mr. Forrest joined us, and welcomed us to his own
native land. The camels were put into an excellent paddock, and
enjoyed themselves almost as much as their masters. Culham is nine or
ten miles from Newcastle, the first town site we should reach. We were
invited thither by the Mayor and Council, or rather the Chairman and
Council of the Municipality.

At Newcastle we were received under a triumphal arch, and the Chairman
presented us with an address. We were then conducted to a sumptuous
banquet. Near the conclusion, the Chairman rose to propose our
healths, etc.; he then gratified us by speaking disparagingly of us
and our journey; he said he didn't see what we wanted to come over
here for, that they had plenty of explorers of their own, etc. This
was something like getting a hostile native's spear stuck into one's
body, and certainly a fine tonic after the champagne. Several
gentlemen in the hall protested against these remarks. I made a short
reply; Mr. Tietkens put a little humour into his, and all coolness
wore away, especially when Tommy made a speech. He was a great
favourite with the "General," and was well looked after during the
repast. When we had all said our say, Tommy was urged to speak; he was
very bashful, and said, "I don't know what to say;" the people near
him said, "Never mind, Tommy, say anything;" so he rose in his seat
and simply said "Anything," whereupon everybody laughed, and joviality
was restored. In the evening a ball took place in our honour; the old
Chairman went to bed, and we all danced till morning. Never after did
we hear anything but compliments and commendations, as what was then
said was against the sense of the whole Colony. The next town we
arrived at was Guildford; on the road the caravan passed by a
splitters' camp, the men there came round the camels, and as usual
stared wide-eyed with amazement. One of them begged Alec Ross, who was
conducting the camels, to wait till a mate of theirs who was away
returned, so that he might see them; but as we were bound to time and
had our stages arranged so that we should reach Perth by a certain
time, this could not be done, and the camels went on. By-and-by a man
came galloping up as near as his horse would come to the camels, and
called out: "Hi there, hold on, you *** wretches; do you think I'd a
galloped after yer ter see such little *** things as them? why, they
ain't no bigger nor a *** horse [there were camels seven feet high in
the mob]; why, I thought they was as big as *** clouds, or else I'd
never a come all this *** way to see them," etc. He interspersed this
address with many adjectives, but as nobody took the slightest notice
of him, he started away, banning and blaspheming as he went, and for
an uneducated, unscientific West Australian, his, was not a bad effort
at profanity.



At Guildford, a town-site on the Swan, we were publicly received by
the Mayor, Mr. Spurling, the Town Council, various bodies and lodges,
and a detachment of volunteers. We were presented with addresses from
the Town Council, and Mr. Spurling made a most handsome speech, which
removed any remains of the taste of the Newcastle tonic. The Lodges of
Oddfellows and Good Templars also presented us with addresses. The
Chairman of the latter made a little Good Templar capital out of the
fact of our having achieved such a great feat entirely on water. To
this I replied, that it was true we had accomplished our journey on
water, and very little of it, but that if we had had anything stronger

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