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Australia Twice Traversed by Ernest Giles

Part 3 out of 11

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To the south a vague and strange horizon was visible; it appeared
flat, as though a plain of great extent existed there, but as the
mirage played upon it, I could not make anything of it. My old friend
the high mountain loomed large and abrupt at a great distance off, and
it bore 8 degrees 30' west from here, too great a distance for us to
proceed to it at once, without first getting water for our horses, as
it was possible that no water might exist even in the neighbourhood of
such a considerable mountain. The horses rambled in the night; when
they were found we started away for the little pass and glen where we
knew water was to be got, and which was now some thirty miles away to
the west-north-west. We reached it somewhat late. The day was hot,
thermometer 98 degrees in shade, and the horses very thirsty, but they
could get no water until we had dug a place for them. Although we had
reached our camping ground our day's work was only about to commence.
We were not long in obtaining enough water for ourselves, such as it
was--thick and dirty with a nauseous flavour--but first we had to tie
the horses up, to prevent them jumping in on us. We found to our grief
that but a poor supply was to be expected, and though we had not to
dig very deep, yet we had to remove an enormous quantity of sand, so
as to create a sufficient surface to get water to run in, and had to
dig a tank twenty feet long by six feet deep, and six feet wide at the
bottom, though at the top it was much wider. I may remark--and what I
now say applies to almost every other water I ever got by digging in
all my wanderings--that whenever we commenced to dig, a swarm of large
and small red hornets immediately came around us, and, generally
speaking, diamond birds (Amadina) would also come and twitter near,
and when water was got, would drink in great numbers. With regard to
the hornets, though they swarmed round our heads and faces in clouds,
no one was ever stung by them, nature and instinct informing them that
we were their friends. We worked and waited for two hours before one
of our three horses could obtain a drink. The water came so slowly in
that it took nearly all the night before the last animal's thirst was
assuaged, as by the time the third got a drink, the first was ready to
begin again, and they kept returning all through the night. We rested
our horses here to-day to allow them to fill themselves with food, as
no doubt they will require all the support they can get to sustain
them in their work before we reach the distant mountain. We passed the
day in enlarging the tank, and were glad to find that, though no
increase in the supply of water was observable, still there seemed no
diminution, as now a horse could fill himself at one spell. We took a
stroll up into the rocks and gullies of the ridges, and found a
Troglodytes' cave ornamented with the choicest specimens of aboriginal
art. The rude figures of snakes were the principal objects, but hands,
and devices for shields were also conspicuous. One hieroglyph was most
striking; it consisted of two Roman numerals--a V and an I, placed
together and representing the figure VI; they were both daubed over
with spots, and were painted with red ochre. Several large rock-holes
were seen, but they had all long lain dry. A few cypress pines grew
upon the rocks in several places. The day was decidedly hot; the
thermometer stood at 100 degrees in the shade at three o'clock, and we
had to fix up a cloth for an awning to get sufficient shade to sit
under. Our only intellectual occupation was the study of a small map
of Australia, showing the routes of the Australian explorers. How
often we noted the facility with which other and more fortunate
travellers dropped upon fine creeks and large rivers. We could only
envy them their good fortune, and hope the future had some prizes in
store for us also. The next morning, after taking three hours to water
our horses, we started on the bearing of the high mount, which could
not be seen from the low ground, the bearing being south 18 degrees
west. We got clear of the low hills of the glen, and almost
immediately entered thick scrubs, varied by high sandhills, with
casuarina and triodia on them. At twelve miles I noticed the sandhills
became denuded of timber, and on our right a small and apparently
grassy plain was visible; I took these signs as a favourable
indication of a change of country. At three miles farther we had a
white salt channel right in front of us, with some sheets of water in
it; upon approaching I found it a perfect bog, and the water brine
itself. We went round this channel to the left, and at length found a
place firm enough to cross. We continued upon our course, and on
ascending a high sandhill I found we had upon our right hand, and
stretching away to the west, an enormous salt expanse, and it appeared
as if we had hit exactly upon the eastern edge of it, at which we
rejoiced greatly for a time. Continuing on our course over treeless
sandhills for a mile or two, we found we had not escaped this feature
quite so easily, for it was now right in our road; it appeared,
however, to be bounded by sandhills a little more to the left,
eastwards; so we went in that direction, but at each succeeding mile
we saw more and more of this objectionable feature; it continually
pushed us farther and farther to the east, until, having travelled
about fifteen miles, and had it constantly on our right, it swept
round under some more sandhills which hid it from us, till it lay east
and west right athwart our path. It was most perplexing to me to be
thus confronted by such an obstacle. We walked a distance on its
surface, and to our weight it seemed firm enough, but the instant we
tried our horses they almost disappeared. The surface was dry and
encrusted with salt, but brine spurted out at every step the horses
took. We dug a well under a sandhill, but only obtained brine.

This obstruction was apparently six or seven miles across, but whether
what we took for its opposite shores were islands or the main, I could
not determine. We saw several sandhill islands, some very high and
deeply red, to which the mirage gave the effect of their floating in
an ocean of water. Farther along the shore eastwards were several high
red sandhills; to these we went and dug another well and got more
brine. We could see the lake stretching away east or east-south-east
as far as the glasses could carry the vision. Here we made another
attempt to cross, but the horses were all floundering about in the
bottomless bed of this infernal lake before we could look round. I
made sure they would be swallowed up before our eyes. We were
powerless to help them, for we could not get near owing to the bog,
and we sank up over our knees, where the crust was broken, in hot salt
mud. All I could do was to crack my whip to prevent the horses from
ceasing to exert themselves, and although it was but a few moments
that they were in this danger, to me it seemed an eternity. They
staggered at last out of the quagmire, heads, backs, saddles,
everything covered with blue mud, their mouths were filled with salt
mud also, and they were completely exhausted when they reached firm
ground. We let them rest in the shade of some quandong trees, which
grew in great numbers round about here. From Mount Udor to the shores
of this lake the country had been continually falling. The northern
base of each ridge, as we travelled, seemed higher by many feet than
the southern, and I had hoped to come upon something better than this.
I thought such a continued fall of country might lead to a
considerable watercourse or freshwater basin; but this salt bog was
dreadful, the more especially as it prevented me reaching the mountain
which appeared so inviting beyond.

Not seeing any possibility of pushing south, and thinking after all it
might not be so far round the lake to the west, I turned to where we
had struck the first salt channel, and resolved to try what a more
westerly line would produce. The channel in question was now some
fifteen miles away to the north-westward, and by the time we got back
there the day was done and "the darkness had fallen from the wings of
night." We had travelled nearly fifty miles, the horses were almost
dead; the thermometer stood at 100 degrees in the shade when we rested
under the quandongs. In the night blankets were unendurable. Had there
been any food for them the horses could not eat for thirst, and were
too much fatigued by yesterday's toil to go out of sight of our
camping place. We followed along the course of the lake north of west
for seven miles, when we were checked by a salt arm running
north-eastwards; this we could not cross until we had gone up it a
distance of three miles. Then we made for some low ridges lying
west-south-west and reached them in twelve miles. There was neither
watercourse, channel, nor rock-holes; we wandered for several miles
round the ridges, looking for water, but without success, and got back
on our morning's tracks when we had travelled thirty miles. From the
top of these ridges the lake could be seen stretching away to the west
or west-south-west in vast proportions, having several salt arms
running back from it at various distances. Very far to the west was
another ridge, but it was too distant for me to reach now, as to-night
the horses would have been two nights without water, and the
probability was they would get none there if they reached it. I
determined to visit it, however, but I felt I must first return to the
tank in the little glen to refresh the exhausted horses. From where we
are, the prospect is wild and weird, with the white bed of the great
lake sweeping nearly the whole southern horizon. The country near the
lake consists of open sandhills, thickly bushed and covered with
triodia; farther back grew casuarinas and mulga scrubs.

It was long past the middle of the day when I descended from the hill.
We had no alternative but to return to the only spot where we knew
water was to be had; this was now distant twenty-one miles to the
north-east, so we departed in a straight line for it. I was heartily
annoyed at being baffled in my attempt to reach the mountain, which I
now thought more than ever would offer a route out of this terrible
region; but it seemed impossible to escape from it. I named this
eminence Mount Olga, and the great salt feature which obstructed me
Lake Amadeus, in honour of two enlightened royal patrons of science.
The horses were now exceedingly weak; the bogging of yesterday had
taken a great deal of strength out of them, and the heat of the last
two days had contributed to weaken them (the thermometer to-day went
up to 101 degrees in shade). They could now only travel slowly, so
that it was late at night when we reached the little tank. Fifty miles
over such disheartening country to-day has been almost too much for
the poor animals. In the tank there was only sufficient water for one
horse; the others had to be tied up and wait their turns to drink, and
the water percolated so slowly through the sand it was nearly midnight
before they were all satisfied and begun to feed. What wonderful
creatures horses are! They can work for two and three days and go
three nights without water, but they can go for ever without sleep; it
is true they do sleep, but equally true that they can go without
sleeping. If I took my choice of all creation for a beast to guard and
give me warning while I slept, I would select the horse, for he is the
most sleepless creature Nature has made. Horses seem to know this; for
if you should by chance catch one asleep he seems very indignant
either with you or himself.

It was absolutely necessary to give our horses a day's rest, as they
looked so much out of sorts this morning. A quarter of the day was
spent in watering them, and by that time it was quite hot, and we had
to erect an awning for shade. We were overrun by ants, and pestered by
flies, so in self-defence we took another walk into the gullies,
revisited the aboriginal National Gallery of paintings and
hieroglyphics, and then returned to our shade and our ants. Again we
pored over the little German map, and again envied more prosperous
explorers. The thermometer had stood at 101 degrees in the shade, and
the greatest pleasure we experienced that day was to see the orb of
day descend. The atmosphere had been surcharged all day with smoke,
and haze hung over all the land, for the Autochthones were ever busy
at their hunting fires, especially upon the opposite side of the great
lake; but at night the blaze of nearer ones kept up a perpetual light,
and though the fires may have been miles away they appeared to be
quite close. I also had fallen into the custom of the country, and had
set fire to several extensive beds of triodia, which had burned with
unabated fury; so brilliant, indeed, was the illumination that I could
see to read by the light. I kindled these fires in hopes some of the
natives might come and interview us, but no doubt in such a poorly
watered region the native population cannot be great, and the few who
do inhabit it had evidently abandoned this particular portion of it
until rains should fall and enable them to hunt while water remained
in it.

Last night, the 23rd October, was sultry, and blankets utterly
useless. The flies and ants were wide awake, and the only thing we
could congratulate ourselves upon, was the absence of mosquitoes. At
dawn the thermometer stood at 70 degrees and a warm breeze blew gently
from the north. The horses were found early, but as it took nearly
three hours to water them we did not leave the glen till past eight
o'clock. This time I intended to return to the ridges we had last
left, and which now bore a little to the west of south-west,
twenty-one miles away. We made a detour so as to inspect some other
ridges near where we had been last. Stony and low ridgy ground was
first met, but the scrubs were all around. At fifteen miles we came
upon a little firm clayey plain with some salt bushes, and it also had
upon it some clay pans, but they had long been dry. We found the
northern face of the ridges just as waterless as the southern, which
we had previously searched. The far hills or ridges to the west, which
I now intended to visit, bore nearly west. Another salt bush plain was
next crossed; this was nearly three miles long. We now gave the horses
an hour's spell, the thermometer showing 102 degrees in the shade;
then, re-saddling, we went on, and it was nine o'clock at night when
we found ourselves under the shadows of the hills we had steered for,
having them on the north of us.

I searched in the dark, but could find no feature likely to supply us
with water; we had to encamp in a nest of triodia without any water,
having travelled forty-eight miles through the usual kind of country
that occupies this region's space. At daylight the thermometer
registered 70 degrees, that being the lowest during the night. On
ascending the hill above us, there was but one feature to gaze
upon--the lake still stretching away, not only in undiminished, but
evidently increasing size, towards the west and north-west. Several
lateral channels were thrown out from the parent bed at various
distances, some broad and some narrow. A line of ridges, with one hill
much more prominent than any I had seen about this country, appeared
close down upon the shores of the lake; it bore from the hill I stood
upon south 68 degrees west, and was about twenty miles off. A long
broad salt arm, however, ran up at the back of it between it and me,
but just opposite there appeared a narrow place that I thought we
might cross to reach it.

The ridge I was on was red granite, but there was neither creek nor
rock-hole about it. We now departed for the high hill westward,
crossing a very boggy salt channel with great difficulty, at five
miles; in five more we came to the arm. It appeared firm, but
unfortunately one of the horses got frightfully bogged, and it was
only by the most frantic exertions that we at length got him out. The
bottom of this dreadful feature, if it has a bottom, seems composed
entirely of hot, blue, briny mud. Our exertions in extricating the
horse made us extremely thirsty; the hill looked more inviting the
nearer we got to it, so, still hoping to reach it, I followed up the
arm for about seven miles in a north west direction. It proved,
however, quite impassable, and it seemed utterly useless to attempt to
reach the range, as we could not tell how far we might have to travel
before we could get round the arm. I believe it continues in a
semicircle and joins the lake again, thus isolating the hill I wished
to visit. This now seemed an island it was impossible to reach. We
were sixty-five miles away from the only water we knew of, with no
likelihood of any nearer; there might certainly be water at the mount
I wished to reach, but it was unapproachable, and I called it by that
name; no doubt, had I been able to reach it, my progress would still
have been impeded to the west by the huge lake itself. I could get no
water except brine upon its shores, and I had no appliances to distil
that; could I have done so, I would have followed this feature,
hideous as it is, as no doubt sooner or later some watercourses must
fall into it either from the south or the west. We were, however, a
hundred miles from the camp, with only one man left there, and
sixty-five from the nearest water. I had no choice but to retreat,
baffled, like Eyre with his Lake Torrens in 1840, at all points. On
the southern shore of the lake, and apparently a very long way off, a
range of hills bore south 30 degrees west; this range had a pinkish
appearance and seemed of some length. Mr. Carmichael wished me to call
it McNicol's Range, after a friend of his, and this I did. We turned
our wretched horses' heads once more in the direction of our little
tank, and had good reason perhaps to thank our stars that we got away
alive from the lone unhallowed shore of this pernicious sea. We kept
on twenty-eight miles before we camped, and looked at two or three
places, on the way ineffectually, for some signs of water, having gone
forty-seven miles; thermometer in shade 103 degrees, the heat
increasing one degree a day for several days. When we camped we were
hungry, thirsty, tired, covered all over with dry salt mud; so that it
is not to be wondered at if our spirits were not at a very high point,
especially as we were making a forced retreat. The night was hot,
cloudy, and sultry, and rain clouds gathered in the sky. At about 1
a.m. the distant rumblings of thunder were heard to the
west-north-west, and I was in hopes some rain might fall, as it was
apparently approaching; the thunder was not loud, but the lightning
was most extraordinarily vivid; only a few drops of rain fell, and the
rest of the night was even closer and more sultry than before.

Ere the stars had left the sky we were in our saddles again; the
horses looked most pitiable objects, their flanks drawn in, the
natural vent was distended to an open and extraordinary cavity; their
eyes hollow and sunken, which is always the case with horses when
greatly in want of water. Two days of such stages will thoroughly test
the finest horse that ever stepped. We had thirty-six miles yet to
travel to reach the water. The horses being so jaded, it was late in
the afternoon when they at last crawled into the little glen; the last
few miles being over stones made the pace more slow. Not even their
knowledge of the near presence of water availed to inspirit them in
the least; probably they knew they would have to wait for hours at the
tank, when they arrived, before their cravings for water could be
appeased. The thermometer to-day was 104 degrees in the shade. When we
arrived the horses had walked 131 miles without a drink, and it was no
wonder that the poor creatures were exhausted. When one horse had
drank what little water there was, we had to re-dig the tank, for the
wind or some other cause had knocked a vast amount of the sand into it
again. Some natives also had visited the place while we were away,
their fresh tracks were visible in the sand around, and on the top of
the tank. They must have stared to see such a piece of excavation in
their territory. When the horses did get water, two of them rolled,
and groaned, and kicked, so that I thought they were going to die; one
was a mare, she seemed the worst, another was a strong young horse
which had carried me well, the third was my old favourite
riding-horse; this time he had only carried the pack, and was badly
bogged; he was the only one that did not appear distressed when filled
with water, the other two lay about in evident pain until morning.
About the middle of the night thunder was again heard, and flash after
flash of even more vivid lightnings than that of the previous night
enlightened the glen; so bright were the flashes, being alternately
fork and sheet lightning, that for nearly an hour the glare never
ceased. The thunder was much louder than last night's, and a slight
mizzling rain for about an hour fell. The barometer had fallen
considerably for the last two days, so I anticipated a change. The
rain was too slight to be of any use; the temperature of the
atmosphere, however, was quite changed, for by the morning the
thermometer was down to 48 degrees.

The horses were not fit to travel, so we had to remain, with nothing
to do, but consult the little map again, and lay off my position on
it. My farthest point I found to be in latitude 24 degrees 38' and
longitude 130 degrees. For the second time I had reached nearly the
same meridian. I had been repulsed at both points, which were about a
hundred miles apart, in the first instance by dry stony ranges in the
midst of dense scrubs, and in the second by a huge salt lake equally
destitute of fresh water. It appears to me plain enough that a much
more northerly or else more southerly course must be pursued to reach
the western coast, at all events in such a country, it will be only by
time and perseverance that any explorer can penetrate it. I think I
remarked before that we entered this little glen through a pass about
half-a-mile long, between two hills of red sandstone. I named this
Worrill's Pass, after another friend of Mr. Carmichael. The little
glen in which we dug out the tank I could only call Glen Thirsty, for
we never returned to it but ourselves and our horses, were choking for
water. Our supply of rations, although we had eked it out with the
greatest possible economy, was consumed, for we brought only a week's
supply, and we had now been absent ten days from home, and we should
have to fast all to-morrow, until we reached the depot; but as the
horses were unable to carry us, we were forced to remain.

During the day I had a long conversation with Mr. Carmichael upon our
affairs in general, and our stock of provisions in particular; the
conclusion we arrived at was, that having been nearly three months
out, we had not progressed so far in the time as we had expected. We
had found the country so dry that until rains fell, it seemed scarcely
probable that we should be able to penetrate farther to the west, and
if we had to remain in depot for a month or two, it was necessary by
some means to economise our stores, and the only way to do so was to
dispense with the services of Alec Robinson. It would be necessary, of
course, in the first place, to find a creek to the eastward, which
would take him to the Finke, and by the means of the same watercourse
we might eventually get round to the southern shores of Lake Amadeus,
and reach Mount Olga at last.

In our journey up the Finke two or three creeks had joined from the
west, and as we were now beyond the sources of any of these, it would
be necessary to discover some road to one or the other before Robinson
could be parted with. By dispensing with his services, as he was
willing to go, we should have sufficient provisions left to enable us
to hold out for some months longer: even if we had to wait so long as
the usual rainy season in this part of the country, which is about
January and February, we should still have several months' provisions
to start again with. In all these considerations Mr. Carmichael fully
agreed, and it was decided that I should inform Alec of our resolution
so soon as we returned to the camp. After the usual nearly three
hours' work to water our horses, we turned our backs for the last time
upon Glen Thirsty, where we had so often returned with exhausted and
choking horses.

I must admit that I was getting anxious about Robinson and the state
of things at the camp. In going through Worrill's Pass, we noticed
that scarcely a tree had escaped from being struck by the lightning;
branches and boughs lay scattered about, and several pines from the
summits of the ridges had been blasted from their eminence. I was not
very much surprised, for I expected to be lightning-struck myself, as
I scarcely ever saw such lightning before. We got back to Robinson and
the camp at 5 p.m. My old horse that carried the pack had gone quite
lame, and this caused us to travel very slowly. Robinson was alive and
quite well, and the little dog was overjoyed to greet us. Robinson
reported that natives had been frequently in the neighbourhood, and
had lit fires close to the camp, but would not show themselves.
Marzetti's mare had foaled, the progeny being a daughter; the horse
that was staked was worse, and I found my old horse had also ran a
mulga stake into his coronet. I probed the wounds of both, but could
not get any wood out. Carmichael and I both thought we would like a
day's rest; and if I did not do much work, at least I thought a good

The lame horses are worse: the poisonous mulga must be in the wounds,
but I can't get it out. What a pleasure it is, not only to have plenty
of water to drink, but actually to have sufficient for a bath! I told
Robinson of my views regarding him, but said he must yet remain until
some eastern waters could be found. On the 30th October, Mr.
Carmichael and I, with three fresh horses, started again. In my
travels southerly I had noticed a conspicuous range of some elevation
quite distinct from the ridges at which our camp was fixed, and lying
nearly east, where an almost overhanging crag formed its north-western
face. This range I now decided to visit. To get out of the ridges in
which our creek exists, we had to follow the trend of a valley formed
by what are sometimes called reaphook hills; these ran about
east-south-east. In a few miles we crossed an insignificant little
creek with a few gum-trees; it had a small pool of water in its bed:
the valley was well grassed and open, and the triodia was also absent.
A small pass ushered us into a new valley, in which were several
peculiar conical hills. Passing over a saddle-like pass, between two
of them, we came to a flat, open valley running all the way to the
foot of the new range, with a creek channel between. The range
appeared very red and rocky, being composed of enormous masses of red
sandstone; the upper portion of it was bare, with the exception of a
few cypress pines, moored in the rifled rock, and, I suppose, proof to
the tempest's shock. A fine-looking creek, lined with gum-trees,
issued from a gorge. We followed up the channel, and Mr. Carmichael
found a fine little sheet of water in a stony hole, about 400 yards
long and forty yards wide. This had about four feet of water in it;
the grass was green, and all round the foot of the range the country
was open, beautifully grassed, green, and delightful to look at.
Having found so eligible a spot, we encamped: how different from our
former line of march! We strolled up through the rocky gorge, and
found several rock reservoirs with plenty of water; some palm-like
Zamias were seen along the rocks. Down the channel, about south-west,
the creek passed through a kind of low gorge about three miles away.
Smoke was seen there, and no doubt it was an encampment of the
natives. Since the heavy though dry thunderstorm at Glen Thirsty, the
temperature has been much cooler. I called this King's Creek. Another
on the western flat beyond joins it. I called the north-west point of
this range Carmichael's Crag. The range trended a little south of
east, and we decided to follow along its southern face, which was
open, grassy, and beautifully green; it was by far the most agreeable
and pleasant country we had met.


At about five miles we crossed another creek coming immediately out of
the range, where it issued from under a high and precipitous wall of
rock, underneath which was a splendid deep and pellucid basin of the
purest water, which came rushing into and out of it through fissures
in the mountain: it then formed a small swamp thickly set with reeds,
which covered an area of several acres, having plenty of water among
them. I called this Penny's Creek. Half a mile beyond it was a similar
one and reed bed, but no such splendid rock reservoir. Farther along
the range other channels issued too, with fine rock water-holes. At
eighteen miles we reached a much larger one than we had yet seen: I
hoped this might reach the Finke. We followed it into the range, where
it came down through a glen: here we found three fine rock-holes with
good supplies of water in them. The glen and rock is all red
sandstone: the place reminded me somewhat of Captain Sturt's Depot
Glen in the Grey ranges of his Central Australian Expedition, only the
rock formation is different, though a cliff overhangs both places, and
there are other points of resemblance. I named this Stokes's Creek.

We rested here an hour and had a swim in one of the rocky basins. How
different to regions westward, where we could not get enough water to
drink, let alone to swim in! The water ran down through the glen as
far as the rock-holes, where it sank into the ground. Thermometer 102
degrees to-day. We continued along the range, having a fine stretch of
open grassy country to travel upon, and in five miles reached another
creek, whose reed beds and water filled the whole glen. This I named
Bagot's Creek. For some miles no other creek issued, till, approaching
the eastern end of the range, we had a piece of broken stony ground
and some mulga for a few miles, when we came to a sudden fall into a
lower valley, which was again open, grassy, and green. We could then
see that the range ended, but sent out one more creek, which meandered
down the valley towards some other hills beyond; this valley was of a
clayey soil, and the creek had some clay holes with water in them.
Following it three miles farther, we found that it emptied itself into
a much larger stony mountain stream; I named this Trickett's Creek,
after a friend of Mr. Carmichael's. The range which had thrown out so
many creeks, and contained so much water, and which is over forty
miles in length, I named George Gill's Range, after my brother-in-law.
The country round its foot is by far the best I have seen in this
region; and could it be transported to any civilised land, its
springs, glens, gorges, ferns, Zamias, and flowers, would charm the
eyes and hearts of toil-worn men who are condemned to live and die in
crowded towns.

The new creek now just discovered had a large stony water-hole
immediately above and below the junction of Trickett's Creek, and as
we approached the lower one, I noticed several native wurleys just
deserted; their owners having seen us while we only thought of them,
had fled at our approach, and left all their valuables behind. These
consisted of clubs, spears, shields, drinking vessels, yam sticks,
with other and all the usual appliances of well-furnished aboriginal
gentlemen's establishments. Three young native dog-puppies came out,
however, to welcome us, but when we dismounted and they smelt us, not
being used to such refined odours as our garments probably exhaled,
they fled howling. The natives had left some food cooking, and when I
cooeyed they answered, but would not come near. This creek was of some
size; it seemed to pass through a valley in a new range further
eastwards. It came from the north-west, apparently draining the
northern side of Gill's Range. I called it Petermann's Creek. We were
now sixty-five miles from our depot, and had been most successful in
our efforts to find a route to allow of the departure of Robinson, as
it appeared that this creek would surely reach the Finke, though we
afterwards found it did not. I intended upon returning here to
endeavour to discover a line of country round the south-eastern
extremity of Lake Amadeus, so as to reach Mount Olga at last. We now
turned our horses' heads again for our home camp, and continued
travelling until we reached Stokes's Creek, where we encamped after a
good long day's march.

This morning, as we were approaching Penny's Creek, we saw two natives
looking most intently at our outgoing horse tracks, along which they
were slowly walking, with their backs towards us. They neither saw nor
heard us until we were close upon their heels. Each carried two
enormously long spears, two-thirds mulga wood and one-third reed at
the throwing end, of course having the instrument with which they
project these spears, called by some tribes of natives only, but
indiscriminately all over the country by whites, a wommerah. It is in
the form of a flat ellipse, elongated to a sort of tail at the holding
end, and short-pointed at the projecting end; a kangaroo's claw or
wild dog's tooth is firmly fixed by gum and gut-strings. The
projectile force of this implement is enormous, and these spears can
be thrown with the greatest precision for more than a hundred yards.
They also had narrow shields, three to four feet long, to protect
themselves from hostile spears, with a handle cut out in the centre.
These two natives had their hair tied up in a kind of chignon at the
back of the head, the hair being dragged back off the forehead from
infancy. This mode gave them a wild though somewhat effeminate
appearance; others, again, wear their hair in long thick curls
reaching down the shoulders, beautifully elaborated with iguanas' or
emus' fat and red ochre. This applies only to the men; the women's
hair is worn either cut with flints or bitten off short. So soon as
the two natives heard, and then looking round saw us, they scampered
off like emus, running along as close to the ground as it is possible
for any two-legged creature to do. One was quite a young fellow, the
other full grown. They ran up the side of the hills, and kept
travelling along parallel to us; but though we stopped and called, and
signalled with boughs, they would not come close, and the oftener I
tried to come near them on foot, the faster they ran. They continued
alongside us until King's Creek was reached, where we rested the
horses for an hour. We soon became aware that a number of natives were
in our vicinity, our original two yelling and shouting to inform the
others of our advent, and presently we saw a whole nation of them
coming from the glen or gorge to the south-west, where I had noticed
camp-fires on my first arrival here. The new people were also shouting
and yelling in the most furious and demoniacal manner; and our former
two, as though deputed by the others, now approached us much nearer
than before, and came within twenty yards of us, but holding their
spears fixed in their wommerahs, in such a position that they could
use them instantly if they desired. The slightest incident might have
induced them to spear us, but we appeared to be at our ease, and
endeavoured to parley with them. The men were not handsome or fat, but
were very well made, and, as is the case with most of the natives of
these parts, were rather tall, namely five feet eight and nine inches.
When they had come close enough, the elder began to harangue us, and
evidently desired us to know that we were trespassers, and were to be
off forthwith, as he waved us away in the direction we had come from.
The whole host then took up the signal, howled, yelled, and waved
their hands and weapons at us. Fortunately, however, they did not
actually attack us; we were not very well prepared for attack, as we
had only a revolver each, our guns and rifles being left with
Robinson. As our horses were frightened and would not feed, we hurried
our departure, when we were saluted with rounds of cheers and
blessings, i.e. yells and curses in their charming dialect, until we
were fairly out of sight and hearing. On reaching the camp, Alec
reported that no natives had been seen during our absence. On
inspecting the two lame horses, it appeared they were worse than ever.

We had a very sudden dry thunderstorm, which cooled the air. Next day
I sent Alec and Carmichael over to the first little five-mile creek
eastwards with the two lame horses, so that we can pick them up en
route to-morrow. They reported that the horses could scarcely travel
at all; I thought if I could get them to Penny's Creek I would leave
them there. This little depot camp was at length broken up, after it
had existed here from 15th October to 5th November. I never expected,
after being nearly three months out, that I should be pushing to the
eastwards, when every hope and wish I had was to go in exactly the
opposite direction, and I could only console myself with the thought
that I was going to the east to get to the west at last. I have great
hopes that if I can once set my foot upon Mount Olga, my route to the
west may be unimpeded. I had not seen all the horses together for some
time, and when they were mustered this morning, I found they had all
greatly improved in condition, and almost the fattest among them was
the little mare that had foaled at Mount Udor. Marzetti's mare looked
very well also.

It was past midday when we turned our backs upon Tempe's Vale. At the
five-mile creek we got the two lame horses, and reached King's Creek
somewhat late in the afternoon. As we neared it, we saw several
natives' smokes, and immediately the whole region seemed alive with
aborigines, men, women, and children running down from the highest
points of the mountain to join the tribe below, where they all
congregated. The yelling, howling, shrieking, and gesticulating they
kept up was, to say the least, annoying. When we began to unpack the
horses, they crowded closer round us, carrying their knotted sticks,
long spears, and other fighting implements. I did not notice any
boomerangs among them, and I did not request them to send for any.
They were growing very troublesome, and evidently meant mischief. I
rode towards a mob of them and cracked my whip, which had no effect in
dispersing them. They made a sudden pause, and then gave a sudden
shout or howl. It seemed as if they knew, or had heard something, of
white men's ways, for when I unstrapped my rifle, and holding it up,
warning them away, to my great astonishment they departed; they
probably wanted to find out if we possessed such things, and I trust
they were satisfied, for they gave us up apparently as a bad lot.

It appeared the exertion of travelling had improved the go of the lame
horses, so I took them along with the others in the morning; I did not
like the idea of leaving them anywhere on this range, as the natives
would certainly spear, and probably eat them. We got them along to
Stokes's Creek, and encamped at the swimming rock-hole.

After our frugal supper a circumstance occurred which completely put
an end to my expedition. Mr. Carmichael informed me that he had made
up his mind not to continue in the field any longer, for as Alec
Robinson was going away, he should do so too. Of course I could not
control him; he was a volunteer, and had contributed towards the
expenses of the expedition. We had never fallen out, and I thought he
was as ardent in the cause of exploration as I was, so that when he
informed me of his resolve it came upon me as a complete surprise. My
arguments were all in vain; in vain I showed how, with the stock of
provisions we had, we might keep the field for months. I even offered
to retreat to the Finke, so that we should not have such arduous work
for want of water, but it was all useless.

It was with distress that I lay down on my blankets that night, after
what he had said. I scarcely knew what to do. I had yet a lot of
horses heavily loaded with provisions; but to take them out into a
waterless, desert country by myself, was impossible. We only went a
short distance--to Bagot's Creek, where I renewed my arguments. Mr.
Carmichael's reply was, that he had made up his mind and nothing
should alter it; the consequence was that with one companion I had, so
to speak, discharged, and another who discharged himself, any further
exploration was out of the question. I had no other object now in view
but to hasten my return to civilisation, in hopes of reorganising my
expedition. We were now in full retreat for the telegraph line; but as
I still traversed a region previously unexplored, I may as well
continue my narrative to the close. Marzetti's foal couldn't travel,
and had to be killed at Bagot's Creek.

On Friday, the 8th November, the party, now silent, still moved under
my directions. We travelled over the same ground that Mr. Carmichael
and I had formerly done, until we reached the Petermann in the Levi
Range. The natives and their pups had departed. The hills approached
this creek so close as to form a valley; there were several
water-holes in the creek; we followed its course as far as the valley
existed. When the country opened, the creek spread out, and the water
ceased to appear in its bed. We kept moving all day; towards evening I
saw some gum-trees under some hills two or three miles southwards, and
as some smoke appeared above the hills, I knew that natives must have
been there lately, and that water might be got there. Accordingly,
leaving Carmichael and Robinson to go on with the horses, I rode over,
and found there was the channel of a small creek, which narrowed into
a kind of glen the farther I penetrated. The grass was burning on all
the hillsides, and as I went still farther up, I could hear the voices
of the natives, and I felt pretty sure of finding water. I was,
however, slightly anxious as to what reception I should get. I soon
saw a single native leisurely walking along in front of me with an
iguana in his hand, taking it home for supper. He carried several
spears, a wommerah, and a shield, and had long curled locks hanging
down his shoulders. My horse's nose nearly touched his back before he
was aware of my presence, when, looking behind him, he gave a sudden
start, held up his two hands, dropped his iguana and his spears,
uttered a tremendous yell as a warning to his tribe, and bounded up
the rocks in front of us like a wallaby. I then passed under a
eucalyptus-tree, in whose foliage two ancient warriors had hastily
secreted themselves. I stopped a second and looked up at them, they
also looked at me; they presented a most ludicrous appearance. A
little farther on there were several rows of wurleys, and I could
perceive the men urging the women and children away, as they doubtless
supposed many more white men were in company with me, never supposing
I could possibly be alone. While the women and children were departing
up the rocks, the men snatched up spears and other weapons, and
followed the women slowly towards the rocks. The glen had here
narrowed to a gorge, the rocks on either side being not more than
eighty to a hundred feet high. It is no exaggeration to say that the
summits of the rocks on either side of the glen were lined with
natives; they could almost touch me with their spears. I did not feel
quite at home in this charming retreat, although I was the cynosure of
a myriad eyes. The natives stood upon the edge of the rocks like
statues, some pointing their spears menacingly towards me, and I
certainly expected that some dozens would be thrown at me. Both
parties seemed paralysed by the appearance of the other. I scarcely
knew what to do; I knew if I turned to retreat that every spear would
be launched at me. I was, metaphorically, transfixed to the spot. I
thought the only thing to do was to brave the situation out, as

"Cowards, 'tis said, in certain situations
Derive a sort of courage from despair;
And then perform, from downright desperation,
Much bolder deeds than many a braver man would dare."




I was choking with thirst, though in vain I looked for a sheet of
water; but seeing where they had dug out some sand, I advanced to one
or two wells in which I could see water, but without a shovel only a
native could get any out of such a funnel-shaped hole. In sheer
desperation I dismounted and picked up a small wooden utensil from one
of the wurleys, thinking if I could only get a drink I should summon
up pluck for the last desperate plunge. I could only manage to get up
a few mouthfuls of dirty water, and my horse was trying to get in on
top of me. So far as I could see, there were only two or three of
these places where all those natives got water. I remounted my horse,
one of the best and fastest I have. He knew exactly what I wanted
because he wished it also, and that was to be gone. I mounted slowly
with my face to the enemy, but the instant I was on he sprang round
and was away with a bound that almost left me behind; then such
demoniacal yells greeted my ears as I had never heard before and do
not wish to hear again; the echoes of the voices of these now
indignant and infuriated creatures reverberating through the defiles
of the hills, and the uncouth sounds of the voices themselves smote so
discordantly on my own and my horse's ears that we went out of that
glen faster, oh! ever so much faster, than we went in. I heard a
horrid sound of spears, sticks, and other weapons, striking violently
upon the ground behind me, but I did not stop to pick up any of them,
or even to look round to see what caused it. Upon rejoining my
companions, as we now seldom spoke to one another, I merely told them
I had seen water and natives, but that it was hardly worth while to go
back to the place, but that they could go if they liked. Robinson
asked me why I had ridden my horse West Australian--shortened to W.A.,
but usually called Guts, from his persistent attention to his
"inwards"--so hard when there seemed no likelihood's of our getting
any water for the night? I said, "Ride him back and see." I called
this place Escape Glen. In two or three miles after I overtook them,
the Petermann became exhausted on the plains. We pushed on nearly
east, as now we must strike the Finke in forty-five to fifty miles;
but we had to camp that night without water. The lame horses went
better the farther they were driven. I hoped to travel the lameness
out of them, as instances of that kind have occurred with me more than
once. We were away from our dry camp early, and had scarcely proceeded
two miles when we struck the bank of a broad sandy-bedded creek, which
was almost as broad as the Finke itself: just where we struck it was
on top of a red bank twenty or thirty feet high. The horses naturally
looking down into the bed below, one steady old file of a horse, that
carried my boxes with the instruments, papers, quicksilver, etc., went
too close, the bank crumbled under him, and down he fell, raising a
cloud of red dust. I rode up immediately, expecting to see a fine
smash, but no, there he was, walking along on the sandy bed below, as
comfortable as he had been on top, not a strap strained or a box
shifted in the least. The bed here was dry. Robinson rode on ahead and
shortly found two fine large ponds under a hill which ended abruptly
over them. On our side a few low ridges ran to meet it, thus forming a
kind of pass. Here we outspanned; it was a splendid place. Carmichael
and Robinson caught a great quantity of fish with hook and line. I
called these Middleton's Pass and Fish Ponds. The country all round
was open, grassy, and fit for stock. The next day we got plenty more
fish; they were a species of perch, the largest one caught weighed, I
dare say, three pounds; they had a great resemblance to Murray cod,
which is a species of perch. I saw from the hill overhanging the water
that the creek trended south-east. Going in that direction we did not,
however, meet it; so turning more easterly, we sighted some pointed
hills, and found the creek went between them, forming another pass,
where there was another water-hole under the rocks. This, no doubt,
had been of large dimensions, but was now gradually getting filled
with sand; there was, however, a considerable quantity of water, and
it was literally alive with fish, insomuch that the water had a
disagreeable and fishy taste. Great numbers of the dead fish were
floating upon the water. Here we met a considerable number of natives,
and although the women would not come close, several of the men did,
and made themselves useful by holding some of the horses' bridles and
getting firewood. Most of them had names given them by their
godfathers at their baptism, that is to say, either by the officers or
men of the Overland Telegraph Construction parties. This was my
thirty-second camp; I called it Rogers's Pass; twenty-two miles was
our day's stage. From here two conspicuous semi-conical hills, or as I
should say, truncated cones, of almost identical appearance, caught my
attention; they bore nearly south 60 degrees east.


Bidding adieu to our sable friends, who had had breakfast with us and
again made themselves useful, we started for the twins. To the south
of them was a range of some length; of this the twins formed a part. I
called it Seymour's Range, and a conic hill at its western end Mount
Ormerod. We passed the twins in eleven miles, and found some water in
the creek near a peculiar red sandstone hill, Mount Quin; the general
course of the creek was south 70 degrees east. Seymour's Range,
together with Mounts Quin and Ormerod, had a series of watermarks in
horizontal lines along their face, similar to Johnston's Range, seen
when first starting, the two ranges lying east and west of one
another; the latter-named range we were again rapidly approaching. Not
far from Mount Quin I found some clay water-holes in a lateral
channel. The creek now ran nearly east, and having taken my latitude
this morning by Aldeberan, I was sure of what I anticipated, namely,
that I was running down the creek I had called Number 2. It was one
that joined the Finke at my outgoing Number 2 camp. We found a
water-hole to-day, fenced in by the natives. There was a low range to
the south-west, and a tent-shaped hill more easterly. We rested the
horses at the fenced-in water-hole. I walked to the top of the tent
hill, and saw the creek went through another pass to the north-east.
In the afternoon I rode over to this pass and found some ponds of
water on this side of it. A bullock whose tracks I had seen further up
the creek had got bogged here. We next travelled through the pass,
which I called Briscoe's Pass, the creek now turning up nearly
north-east; in six miles further it ran under a hill, which I well
remembered in going out; at thirteen miles from the camp it ended in
the broader bosom of the Finke, where there was a fine water-hole at
the junction, in the bed of the smaller creek, which was called the
Palmer. The Finke now appeared very different to when we passed up. It
then had a stream of water running along its channel, but was now
almost dry, except that water appeared at intervals upon the surface
of the white and sandy bed, which, however, was generally either salty
or bitter; others, again, were drinkable enough. Upon reaching the
river we camped.

My expedition was over. I had failed certainly in my object, which was
to penetrate to the sources of the Murchison River, but not through
any fault of mine, as I think any impartial reader will admit. Our
outgoing tracks were very indistinct, but yet recognisable; we camped
again at Number 1. Our next line was nearly east, along the course of
the Finke, passing a few miles south of Chambers's Pillar. I had left
it but twelve weeks and four days; during that interval I had
traversed and laid down over a thousand miles of previously totally
unknown country. Had I been fortunate enough to have fallen upon a
good or even a fair line of country, the distance I actually travelled
would have taken me across the continent.

I may here make a few remarks upon the Finke. It is usually called a
river, although its water does not always show upon the surface.
Overlanders, i.e. parties travelling up or down the road along the
South Australian Trans-Continental Telegraph line, where the water
does show on the surface, call them springs. The water is always
running underneath the sand, but in certain places it becomes
impregnated with mineral and salty formations, which gives the water a
disagreeable taste. This peculiar drain no doubt rises in the western
portions of the McDonnell Range, not far from where I traced it to,
and runs for over 500 miles straight in a general south-westerly
direction, finally entering the northern end of Lake Eyre. It drains
an enormous area of Central South Australia, and on the parallels of
24, 25, 26 degrees of south latitude, no other stream exists between
it and the Murchison or the Ashburton, a distance in either case of
nearly 1,100 miles, and thus it will be seen it is the only Central
Australian river.

On the 21st of November we reached the telegraph line at the junction
of the Finke and the Hugh. The weather during this month, and almost
to its close, was much cooler than the preceding one. The horses were
divided between us--Robinson getting six, Carmichael four, and I five.
Carmichael and Robinson went down the country, in company, in advance
of me, as fast as they could. I travelled more slowly by myself. One
night, when near what is called the Horse-shoe bend of the Finke, I
had turned out my horses, and as it seemed inclined to rain, was
erecting a small tent, and on looking round for the tomahawk to drive
a stake into the ground, was surprised to notice a very handsome
little black boy, about nine or ten years old, quite close to me. I
patted him on the head, whereupon he smiled very sweetly, and began to
talk most fluently in his own language. I found he interspersed his
remarks frequently with the words Larapinta, white fellow, and
yarraman (horses). He told me two white men, Carmichael and Robinson,
and ten horses, had gone down, and that white fellows, with horses and
camel drays (Gosse's expedition), had just gone up the line. While we
were talking, two smaller boys came up and were patted, and patted me
in return.

The water on the surface here was bitter, and I had not been able to
find any good, but these little imps of iniquity took my tin billy,
scratched a hole in the sand, and immediately procured delicious
water; so I got them to help to water the horses. I asked the elder
boy, whom I christened Tommy, if he would come along with me and the
yarramans; of these they seemed very fond, as they began kissing while
helping to water them. Tommy then found a word or two of English, and
said, "You master?" The natives always like to know who they are
dealing with, whether a person is a master or a servant. I replied,
"Yes, mine master." He then said, "Mine (him) ridem yarraman." "Oh,
yes." "Which one?" "That one," said I, pointing to old Cocky, and
said, "That's Cocky." Then the boy went up to the horse, and said,
"Cocky, you ridem me?" Turning to me, he said, "All right, master, you
and me Burr-r-r-r-r." I was very well pleased to think I should get
such a nice little fellow so easily. It was now near evening, and
knowing that these youngsters couldn't possibly be very far from their
fathers or mothers, I asked, "Where black fellow?" Tommy said, quite
nonchalantly, "Black fellow come up!" and presently I heard voices,
and saw a whole host of men, women, and children. Then these three
boys set up a long squeaky harangue to the others, and three or four
men and five or six boys came running up to me. One was a middle-aged,
good-looking man; with him were two boys, and Tommy gave me to
understand that these were his father and brothers. The father drew
Tommy towards him, and ranged his three boys in a row, and when I
looked at them, it was impossible to doubt their relationship--they
were all three so wonderfully alike. Dozens more men, boys, and women
came round--some of the girls being exceedingly pretty. To feed so
large a host, would have required all my horses as well as my stock of
rations, so I singled out Tommy, his two brothers, and the other
original little two, at the same time, giving Tommy's father about
half a damper I had already cooked, and told him that Tommy was my
boy. He shook his head slowly, and would not accept the damper,
walking somewhat sorrowfully away. However, I sent it to him by Tommy,
and told him to tell his father he was going with me and the horses.
The damper was taken that time. It did not rain, and the five
youngsters all slept near me, while the tribe encamped a hundred yards
away. I was not quite sure whether to expect an attack from such a
number of natives. I did not feel quite at ease; though these were, so
to say, civilised people, they were known to be great thieves; and I
never went out of sight of my belongings, as in many cases the more
civilised they are, the more villainous they may be. In the morning
Tommy's father seemed to have thought better of my proposal, thinking
probably it was a good thing for one of his boys to have a white
master. I may say nearly all the civilised youngsters, and a good many
old ones too, like to get work, regular rations, and tobacco, from the
cattle or telegraph stations, which of course do employ a good many.
When one of these is tired of his work, he has to bring up a
substitute and inform his employer, and thus a continual change goes
on. The boys brought up the horses, and breakfast being eaten, the
father led Tommy up to me and put his little hand in mine; at the same
time giving me a small piece of stick, and pretending to thrash him;
represented to me that, if he didn't behave himself, I was to thrash
him. I gave the old fellow some old clothes (Tommy I had already
dressed up), also some flour, tea, and sugar, and lifted the child on
to old Cocky's saddle, which had a valise in front, with two straps
for the monkey to cling on by. A dozen or two youngsters now also
wanted to come on foot. I pretended to be very angry, and Tommy must
have said something that induced them to remain. I led the horse the
boy was riding, and had to drive the other three in front of me. When
we departed, the natives gave us some howls or cheers, and finally we
got out of their reach. The boy seemed quite delighted with his new
situation, and talked away at a great rate. As soon as we reached the
road, by some extraordinary chance, all my stock of wax matches,
carried by Badger, caught alight; a perfect volcano ensued, and the
novel sight of a pack-horse on fire occurred. This sent him mad, and
away he and the two other pack-horses flew down the road, over the
sandhills, and were out of sight in no time. I told the boy to cling
on as I started to gallop after them. He did so for a bit, but
slipping on one side, Cocky gave a buck, and sent Tommy flying into
some stumps of timber cut down for the passage of the telegraph line,
and the boy fell on a stump and broke his arm near the shoulder. I
tied my horse up and went to help the child, who screamed and bit at
me, and said something about his people killing me. Every time I tried
to touch or pacify him it was the same. I did not know what to do, the
horses were miles away. I decided to leave the boy where he was, go
after the horses, and then return with them to my last night's camp,
and give the boy back to his father. When he saw me mount, he howled
and yelled, but I gave him to understand what I was going to do and he
lay down and cried. I was full of pity for the poor little creature,
and I only left him to return. I started away, and not until I had
been at full gallop for an hour did I sight the runaway horses. Cocky
got away when the accident occurred, and galloped after and found the
others, and his advent evidently set them off a second time. Returning
to the boy, I saw some smoke, and on approaching close, found a young
black fellow also there. He had bound up the child's arm with leaves,
and wrapped it up with bits of bark; and when I came he damped it with
water from my bag. I then suggested to these two to return; but oh no,
the new chap was evidently bound to seek his fortune in London--that
is to say, at the Charlotte Waters Station--and he merely remarked,
"You, mine, boy, Burr-r-r-r-r, white fellow wurley;" he also said,
"Mine, boy, walk, you, yarraman--mine, boy, sleep you wurley, you
Burr-r-r-r-r yarraman." All this meant that they would walk and I
might ride, and that they would camp with me at night. Off I went and
left them, as I had a good way to go. I rode and they walked to the
Charlotte. I got the little boy regular meals at the station; but his
arm was still bad, and I don't know if it ever got right. I never saw
him again.

At the Charlotte Waters I met Colonel Warburton and his son; they were
going into the regions I had just returned from. I gave them all the
information they asked, and showed them my map; but they and Gosse's
expedition went further up the line to the Alice springs, in the
McDonnell Ranges, for a starting-point. I was very kindly received
here again, and remained a few days. My old horse Cocky had got bad
again, in consequence of his galloping with the packhorses, and I left
him behind me at the Charlotte, in charge of Mr. Johnston. On arrival
at the Peake, I found that Mr. Bagot had broken his collar-bone by a
fall from a horse. I drove him to the Blinman Mine, where we took the
coach for Adelaide. At Beltana, before we reached the Blinman Mine, I
heard that my former black boy Dick was in that neighbourhood, and Mr.
Chandler, whom I had met at the Charlotte Waters, and who was now
stationed here, promised to get and keep him for me until I either
came or sent for him: this he did. And thus ends the first book of my




In a former part of my narrative I mentioned, that so soon as I had
informed my kind friend Baron von Mueller by wire from the Charlotte
Waters Telegraph Station, of the failure and break up of my
expedition, he set to work and obtained a new fund for me to continue
my labours. Although the greatest despatch was used, and the money
quickly obtained, yet it required some months before I could again
depart. I reached Adelaide late in January, 1873, and as soon as funds
were available I set to work at the organisation of a new expedition.
I obtained the services of a young friend named William Henry
Tietkins--who came over from Melbourne to join me--and we got a young
fellow named James Andrews, or Jimmy as we always called him. I bought
a light four-wheeled trap and several horses, and we left Adelaide
early in March, 1873. We drove up the country by way of the Burra
mines to Port Augusta at the head of Spencer's Gulf, buying horses as
we went; and having some pack saddles on the wagon, these we put on
our new purchases as we got them.

Before I left Adelaide I had instructed Messrs. Tassie & Co., of Port
Augusta, to forward certain stores required for our journey, which
loading had already been despatched by teams to the Peake. We made a
leisurely journey up the country, as it was of no use to overtake our
stores. At Beltana Mr. Chandler had got and kept my black boy Dick,
who pretended to be overjoyed to see me, and perhaps he really was;
but he was extra effusive in his affection, and now declared he had
been a silly young fool, that he didn't care for wild blacks now a
bit, and would go with me anywhere. When Mr. Chandler got him he was
half starved, living in a blacks' camp, and had scarcely any clothes.
Leaving Beltana, in a few days we passed the Finniss Springs Station,
and one of the people there made all sorts of overtures to Dick, who
was now dressed in good clothes, and having had some good living
lately, had got into pretty good condition; some promises must have
been made him, as when we reached the Gregory, he bolted away, and I
never saw him afterwards.

The Gregory was now running, and by simply dipping out a bucketful of
water, several dozens of minnows could be caught. In this way we got
plenty of them, and frying them in butter, just as they were, they
proved the most delicious food it was possible to eat, equal, if not
superior, to whitebait. Nothing of a very interesting nature occurred
during our journey up to the Peake, where we were welcomed by the
Messrs. Bagot at the Cattle Station, and Mr. Blood of the Telegraph
Department. Here we fixed up all our packs, sold Mr. Bagot the wagon,
and bought horses and other things; we had now twenty packhorses and
four riding ditto. Here a short young man accosted me, and asked me if
I did not remember him, saying at the same time that he was "Alf." I
fancied I knew his face, but thought it was at the Peake that I had
seen him, but he said, "Oh no, don't you remember Alf with Bagot's
sheep at the north-west bend of the Murray? my name's Alf Gibson, and
I want to go out with you." I said, "Well, can you shoe? can you ride?
can you starve? can you go without water? and how would you like to be
speared by the blacks outside?" He said he could do everything I had
mentioned, and he wasn't afraid of the blacks. He was not a man I
would have picked out of a mob, but men were scarce, and as he seemed
so anxious to come, and as I wanted somebody, I agreed to take him. We
got all our horses shod, and two extra sets of shoes fitted for each,
marked, and packed away. I had a little black-and-tan terrier dog
called Cocky, and Gibson had a little pup of the same breed, which he
was so anxious to take that at last I permitted him to do so.

Our horses' loads were very heavy at starting, the greater number of
the horses carrying 200 pounds. The animals were not in very good
condition; I got the horse I had formerly left here, Badger, the one
whose pack had been on fire at the end of my last trip. I had decided
to make a start upon this expedition from a place known as Ross's
Water-hole in the Alberga Creek, at its junction with the Stevenson,
the Alberga being one of the principal tributaries of the Finke. The
position of Ross's Water-hole is in latitude 27 degrees 8' and
longitude 135 degrees 45', it lying 120 to 130 miles in latitude more
to the south than the Mount Olga of my first journey, which was a
point I was most desirous to reach. Having tried without success to
reach it from the north, I now intended to try from a more southerly
line. Ross's Water-hole is called ninety miles from the Peake, and we
arrived there without any difficulty. The nights now were exceedingly
cold, as it was near the end of July. When we arrived I left the
others in camp and rode myself to the Charlotte Waters, expecting to
get my old horse Cocky, and load him with 200 pounds of flour; but
when I arrived there, the creek water-hole was dry, and all the horses
running loose on the Finke. I got two black boys to go out and try to
get the horse, but on foot in the first place they could never have
done it, and in the second place, when they returned, they said they
could not find him at all. I sent others, but to no purpose, and
eventually had to leave the place without getting him, and returned
empty-handed to the depot, having had my journey and lost my time for

There was but poor feed at the water-hole, every teamster and
traveller always camping there. Some few natives appeared at the camp,
and brought some boys and girls. An old man said he could get me a
flour-bag full of salt up the creek, so I despatched him for it; he
brought back a little bit of dirty salty gravel in one hand, and
expected a lot of flour, tea, sugar, meat, tobacco, and clothes for
it; but I considered my future probable requirements, and refrained
from too much generosity. A nice little boy called Albert agreed to
come with us, but the old man would not allow him--I suppose on
account of the poor reward he got for his salt. A young black fellow
here said he had found a white man's musket a long way up the creek,
and that he had got it in his wurley, and would give it to me for
flour, tea, sugar, tobacco, matches, and clothes. I only promised
flour, and away he went to get the weapon. Next day he returned, and
before reaching the camp began to yell, "White fellow mukkety, white
fellow mukkety." I could see he had no such thing in his hands, but
when he arrived he unfolded a piece of dirty old pocket handkerchief,
from which he produced--what? an old discharged copper revolver
cartridge. His reward was commensurate with his prize.

The expedition consisted of four members--namely, myself, Mr. William
Henry Tietkins, Alfred Gibson, and James Andrews, with twenty-four
horses and two little dogs. On Friday, the 1st of August, 1873, we
were prepared to start, but rain stopped us; again on Sunday some more
fell. We finally left the encampment on the morning of Monday, the


Leave for the west.
Ascend the Alberga.
An old building.
Rain, thunder, and lightning.
Leave Alberga for the north-west.
Drenched in the night.
Two lords of the soil.
Get their conge.
Pretty amphitheatre.
Scrubs on either side.
Watering the horses.
A row of saplings.
Spinifex and poplars.
Dig a tank.
Hot wind.
A broken limb.
Higher hills.
Flat-topped hills.
Singular cones.
Better country.
A horse staked.
Bluff-faced hills.
The Anthony Range.
Cool nights.
Tent-shaped hills.
Fantastic mounds.
Romantic valley.
Picturesque scene.
A gum creek.
Beautiful country.
Gusts of fragrance.
New and independent hills.
Large creek.
Native well.
Jimmy's report.
The Krichauff.
Cold nights.
Shooting blacks.
Labor omnia vincit.
Thermometer 28 degrees.
Dense scrubs.
Small creek.
Native pheasant's nest.
Beautiful open ground.
Charming view.
Rocks piled on rocks.

On Monday, the 4th August, 1873, my new expedition, under very
favourable circumstances, started from Ross's Water-hole in the
Alberga. The country through which the Alberga here runs is mostly
open and stony, but good country for stock of all kinds. The road and
the telegraph line are here thirteen miles apart. At that distance up
the creek, nearly west, we reached it. The frame of an old building
was convenient for turning into a house, with a tarpaulin for a roof,
as there appeared a likelihood of more rain. Some water was got in a
clay-pan in the neighbourhood.

A misty and cloudy morning warned us to keep under canvas: rain fell
at intervals during the day, and at sundown heavy thunder and bright
lightning came from the north-west, with a closing good smart shower.
The next morning was fine and clear, though the night had been
extremely cold. The bed of this creek proved broad but ill-defined,
and cut up into numerous channels. Farther along the creek a more
scrubby region was found; the soil was soft after the rain, but no
water was seen lying about. The creek seemed to be getting smaller; I
did not like its appearance very much, so struck away north-west. The
country now was all thick mulga scrub and grassy sandhills; amongst
these we found a clay-pan with some water in it. At night we were
still in the scrub, without water, but we were not destined to leave
it without any, for at ten o'clock a thunderstorm from the north-west
came up, and before we could get half our things under canvas, we were
thoroughly drenched. Off our tarpaulins we obtained plenty of water
for breakfast; but the ground would not retain any. Sixteen miles
farther along we came down out of the sandhills on to a creek where we
found water, and camped, but the grass was very poor, dry, and
innutritious. More rain threatened, but the night was dry, and the
morning clear and beautiful. This creek was the Hamilton. Two of its
native lords visited the camp this morning, and did not appear at all
inclined to leave it. The creek is here broad and sandy: the timber is
small and stunted. Towards evening the two Hamiltonians put on airs of
great impudence, and became very objectionable; two or three times I
had to resist their encroachments into the camp, and at last they
greatly annoyed me. I couldn't quite make out what they said to one
another; but I gathered they expected more of their tribe, and were
anxiously looking out for them in all directions. Finally, as our guns
wanted discharging and cleaning after the late showers, we fired them
off, and so soon as the natives saw us first handle and then discharge
them, off they went, and returned to Balclutha no more.


Going farther up the creek, we met some small tributaries with fine
little water-holes. Some ridges now approached the creek; from the top
of one many sheets of water glittered in stony clay-pans. More
westerly the creek ran under a hill. Crossing another tributary where
there was plenty of water, we next saw a large clay-hole in the main
creek--it was, however, dry. When there was some water in it, the
natives had fenced it round to catch any large game that might come to
drink; at present they were saved the trouble, for game and water had
both alike departed. Mr. Tietkens, my lieutenant and second in
command, found a very pretty amphitheatre formed by the hills; we
encamped there, at some clay-pans; the grass, however, was very poor;
scrubs appeared on the other side of the creek. A junction with
another creek occurred near here, beyond which the channel was broad,
flat, sandy, and covered indiscriminately with timber; scrubs existed
on either bank. We had to cross and recross the bed as the best road.
We found a place in it where the natives had dug, and where we got
water, but the supply was very unsatisfactory, an enormous quantity of
sand having to be shifted before the most willing horse could get down
to it. We succeeded at length with the aid of canvas buckets, and by
the time the whole twenty four were satisfied, we were also. The grass
was dry as usual, but the horses ate it, probably because there is no
other for them. Our course to-day was 8 degrees south of west. Close
to where we encamped were three or four saplings placed in a row in
the bed of the creek, and a diminutive tent-frame, as though some one,
if not done by native children, had been playing at erecting a
miniature telegraph line. I did not like this creek much more than the
Alberga, and decided to try the country still farther north-west. This
we did, passing through somewhat thick scrubs for eighteen miles, when
we came full upon the creek again, and here for the first time since
we started we noticed some bunches of spinifex, the Festuca irritans,
and some native poplar trees. These have a straight stem, and are in
outline somewhat like a pine-tree, but the foliage is of a fainter
green, and different-shaped leaf. They are very pretty to the eye, but
generally inhabit the very poorest regions; the botanical name of this
tree is Codonocarpus cotinifolius. At five miles farther we dug in the
bed of the creek, but only our riding-horses could be watered by
night. White pipeclay existed on the bed. The weather was oppressive
to-day. Here my latitude was 26 degrees 27', longitude 134 degrees. It
took all next day to water the horses. Thermometer 92 degrees in
shade, hot wind blowing. The dead limb of a tree, to which we fixed
our tarpaulin as an awning for shade, slipped down while we were at
dinner; it first fell on the head of Jimmy Andrews, which broke it in
half; it also fell across my back, tearing my waistcoat, shirt, and
skin; but as it only fell on Jimmy's head of course it couldn't hurt
him. The country still scrubby on both sides: we now travelled about
north-north-west, and reached a low stony rise in the scrubs, and from
it saw the creek stretching away towards some other ridges nearly on
the line we were travelling. We skirted the creek, and in eleven miles
we saw other hills of greater elevation than any we had yet seen.

Reaching the first ridge, we got water by digging a few inches into
the pipeclay bed of the creek; a more extended view was here obtained,
and ranges appeared from west, round by north-west, to north; there
were many flat-topped hills and several singular cones, and the
country appeared more open. I was much pleased to think I had
distanced the scrubs. One cone in the new range bore north 52 degrees
west, and for some distance the creek trended that way. On reaching
the foot of the new hills, I found the creek had greatly altered its
appearance, if indeed it was the same. It is possible the main creek
may have turned more to the west, and that this is only a tributary,
but as we found some surface water in a clay-hole, we liked it better
than having to dig in a larger channel. Here for the first time for
many weeks we came upon some green grass, which the horses greedily
devoured. The country here is much better and more open. On mustering
the horses this morning, one was found to be dead lame, with a mulga
stake in his coronet, and as he could not travel we were forced to
remain at the camp; at least the camp was not shifted. This horse was
called Trew; he was one of the best in the mob, though then I had not
found out all his good qualities--he now simply carried a pack. Mr.
Tietkens and I mounted our horses and rode farther up the creek. The
channel had partly recovered its appearance, and it may be our old one
after all. Above the camp its course was nearly north, and a line of
low bluff-faced hills formed its eastern bank. The country towards the
new ranges looked open and inviting, and we rode to a prominent cone
in it, to the west-north-west. The country was excellent, being open
and grassy, and having fine cotton and salt bush flats all over it:
there was surface water in clay-pans lying about. I called this the
Anthony Range. We returned much pleased with our day's ride.

The nights were now agreeably cool, sometimes very dewy. The lame
horse was still very bad, but we lightened his load, and after the
first mile he travelled pretty well. We steered for the singular cone
in advance. Most of the hills, however, of the Anthony Range were
flat-topped, though many tent-shaped ones exist also. I ascended the
cone in ten miles, west of north-west from camp. The view displayed
hills for miles in all directions, amongst which were many bare rocks
of red colour heaped into the most fantastically tossed mounds
imaginable, with here and there an odd shrub growing from the
interstices of the rocks; some small miniature creeks, with only myal
and mulga growing in them, ran through the valleys--all of these had
recently been running. We camped a mile or two beyond the cone in an
extremely pretty and romantic valley; the grass was green, and Nature
appeared in one of her smiling moods, throwing a gleam of sunshine on
the minds of the adventurers who had sought her in one of her
wilderness recesses. The only miserable creature in our party was the
lame horse, but now indeed he had a mate in misfortune, for we found
that another horse, Giant Despair, had staked himself during our day's
march, though he did not appear lame until we stopped, and his hobbles
were about to be put on. Mr. Tietkens extracted a long mulga stick
from his fetlock: neither of the two staked horses ever became sound
again, although they worked well enough. In the night, or rather by
morning (daylight), the thermometer had fallen to 30 degrees, and
though there was a heavy dew there was neither frost nor ice.

We now passed up to the head of the picturesque valley, and from there
wound round some of the mounds of bare rocks previously mentioned.
They are composed of a kind of a red conglomerate granite. We turned
in and out amongst the hills till we arrived at the banks of a small
creek lined with eucalyptus or gum-trees, and finding some water we
encamped on a piece of beautiful-looking country, splendidly grassed
and ornamented with the fantastic mounds, and the creek timber as back
and fore grounds for the picture. Small birds twittered on each bough,
sang their little songs of love or hate, and gleefully fled or pursued
each other from tree to tree. The atmosphere seemed cleared of all
grossness or impurities, a few sunlit clouds floated in space, and a
perfume from Nature's own laboratory was exhaled from the flowers and
vegetation around. It might well be said that here were

"Gusts of fragrance on the grasses,
In the skies a softened splendour;
Through the copse and woodland passes
Songs of birds in cadence tender."

The country was so agreeable here we had no desire to traverse it at
railway speed; it was delightful to loll and lie upon the land, in
abandoned languishment beneath the solar ray. Thirty or forty miles
farther away, west-north-westward, other and independent hills or
ranges stood, though I was grieved to remark that the intermediate
region seemed entirely filled with scrub. How soon the scenery
changes! Travelling now for the new hills, we soon entered scrubs,
where some plots of the dreaded triodia were avoided. In the scrubs,
at ten miles we came upon the banks of a large gum-timbered creek,
whose trees were fine and vigorous. In the bed we found a native well,
with water at no great depth; the course of this creek where we struck
it, was south-south-east, and we travelled along its banks in an
opposite, that is to say, north-north-west direction. That line,
however, took us immediately into the thick scrubs, so at four miles
on this bearing I climbed a tree, and saw that I must turn north to
cut it again; this I did, and in three miles we came at right angles
upon a creek which I felt sure was not the one we had left, the scrub
being so thick one could hardly see a yard ahead. Here I sent Jimmy
Andrews up a tree; having been a sailor boy, he is well skilled in
that kind of performance, but I am not. I told him to discover the
whereabouts of the main creek, and say how far off it appeared. That
brilliant genius informed me that it lay across the course we were
steering, north, and it was only a mile away; so we went on to it, as
we supposed, but having gone more than two miles and not reaching it,
I asked Jimmy whether he had not made some mistake. I said, "We have
already come two miles, and you said it was scarcely one." He then
kindly informed me that I was going all wrong, and ought not to go
that way at all; but upon my questioning him as to which way I should
go he replied, "Oh, I don't know NOW." My only plan was to turn east,
when we soon struck the creek. Then Jimmy declared if we had KEPT
NORTH LONG ENOUGH, we would have come to it AGIN.

Though Jimmy was certainly a bit of a fool, he was not perhaps quite a
fool of the greatest size. Little fools and young fools somehow seem
to pass muster in this peculiar world, but to be old and a fool is a
mistake which is difficult, if not impossible, to remedy. It was too
late to go any farther; we couldn't get any water, but we had to camp.
I intended to return in the morning to where we first struck this
creek, and where we saw water in the native well. I called this the
Krichauff. The mercury went down to 28 degrees by daylight the next
morning, but neither ice nor frost appeared. This morning Mr.
Tietkens, when out after the horses, found a rather deep native well
some distance up the creek, and we shifted the camp to it. On the way
there I was behind the party, and before I overtook them I heard the
report of firearms. On reaching the horses, Jimmy Andrews had his
revolver in his hand, Mr. Tietkens and Gibson being away. On inquiring
of Jimmy the cause of the reports and the reason of his having his
revolver in his hand, he replied that he thought Mr. Tietkens was
shooting the blacks, and he had determined to slaughter his share if
they attacked him. Mr. Tietkens had fired at some wallabies, which,
however, did not appear at dinner. On arrival at the new well, we had
a vast amount of work to perform, and only three or four horses got
water by night.

I told Mr. Tietkens not to work himself to death, as I would retreat
in the morning to where there was water, but he persisted in working
away by himself in the night, and was actually able to water all the
horses in the morning. Labor omnia vincit. Last night there was a
heavy fall of dew, thermometer 28 degrees, but no frost or ice. I was
delighted to turn my back upon this wretched place.

The object of our present line was to reach the new hills seen from
the Anthony Range. Three of them appeared higher than, and isolated
from, the others. They now bore west of us--at least they should have
done so, and I hoped they did, for in such thick scrubs it was quite
impossible to see them. No matter for that, we steered west for them
and traversed a region of dense scrubs. I was compelled to ride in
advance with a bell on my stirrup to enable the others to hear which
way to come. In seventeen miles we struck a small gum creek without
water, but there was good herbage. In the scrubs to-day we saw a
native pheasant's nest, the Leipoa ocellata of Gould, but there were
no eggs in it. This bird is known by different names in different
parts of Australia. On the eastern half of the continent it is usually
called the Lowan, while in Western Australia it is known as the Gnow;
both I believe are native names. Another cold night, thermometer 26
degrees, with a slight hoar frost. Moving on still west through
scrubs, but not so thick as yesterday, some beautiful and open ground
was met till we reached the foot of some low ridges.

From the top of one of these, we had before us a most charming view,
red ridges of extraordinary shapes and appearance being tossed up in
all directions, with the slopes of the soil, from whence they seemed
to spring, rising gently, and with verdure clad in a garment of grass
whose skirts were fringed with flowers to their feet. These slopes
were beautifully bedecked with flowers of the most varied hues,
throwing a magic charm over the entire scene. Vast bare red

"Rocks piled on rocks stupendous hurled,
Like fragments of an earlier world,"

appeared everywhere, but the main tier of ranges for which I had been
steering was still several miles farther away to the west. Thinking
that water, the scarcest here of Nature's gifts, must surely exist in
such a lovely region as this, it was more with the keen and critical
eye of the explorer in search of that element, than of the admirer of
Nature in her wildest grace, that I surveyed the scene. A small gum
creek lay to the south, to which Mr. Tietkens went. I sent Gibson to a
spot about two miles off to the west, as straight before us in that
direction lay a huge mass of rocks and bare slabs of stone, which
might have rock reservoirs amongst them. To the north lay a longer
jumble of hills, with overhanging ledges and bare precipices, which I
undertook to search, leaving Jimmy to mind the horses until some of us
returned. Neither Mr. Tietkens nor Gibson could find any water, and I
was returning quite disappointed, after wandering over hills and
rocks, through gullies and under ledges, when at length I espied a
small and very fertile little glen whose brighter green attracted my
notice. Here a small gully came down between two hills, and in the bed
of the little channel I saw a patch of blacker soil, and on reaching
it I found a small but deep native well with a little water at the
bottom. It was an extraordinary little spot, and being funnel shaped,
I doubted whether any animal but a bird or a black man could get down
to it, and I also expected it would prove a hideous bog; but my little
friend (W.A.) seemed so determined to test its nature, and though it
was nearly four feet to the water, he quietly let his forefeet slip
down into it, and though his hindquarters were high and dry above his
head he got a good drink, which he told me in his language he was very
thankful for. I brought the whole party to the spot, and we had
immediately to set to work to enlarge the well. We found the water
supply by no means abundant, as, though we all worked hard at it in
turns with the shovel, it did not drain in as fast as one horse could
drink; but by making a large hole, we expected sufficient would drain
in during the night for the remainder of the horses. We did not cease
from our work until it was quite dark, when we retired to our
encampment, quite sufficiently tired to make us sleep without the aid
of any lullaby.


A poor water supply.
Seeds planted.
Beautiful country.
Ride westward.
A chopped log.
Magnetic hill.
Singular scenery.
Cheering prospect westward.
A new chain of hills.
A nearer mountain.
Vistas of green.
Gibson finds water.
Turtle backs.
Ornamented Troglodytes' caves.
Water and emus.
Grassy lawns.
Gum creek.
Purple vetch.
Cold dewy night.
Jumbled turtle backs.
Tietkens returns.
I proceed.
Two-storied native huts.
Chinese doctrine.
A wonderful mountain.
Elegant trees.
Extraordinary ridge.
A garden.
Nature imitates her imitator.
Wild and strange view.
Pool of water.
A lonely camp.
Between sleeping and waking.
Extract from Byron for breakfast.
Return for the party.
Emus and water.
Arrival of Tietkens.
A good camp.
Tietkens's birthday creek.
Ascend the mountain.
No signs of water.
Gill's range.
Flat-topped hill.
The Everard range.
High mounts westward.
Snail shells.
Altitude of the mountain.
Pretty scenes.
Parrot soup.
The sentinel.
Thermometer 26 degrees.
Lunar rainbow.
A charming spot.
A pool of water.
Cones of the main range.
A new pass.
Dreams realised.
A long glen.
Glen Ferdinand.
Mount Ferdinand.
The Reid.
Large creek.
Disturb a native nation.
Spears hurled.
A regular attack.
Repulse and return of the enemy.
Their appearance.
Encounter Creek.
Mount Officer.
The Currie.
The Levinger.
Excellent country.
Mount Davenport.
Small gap.
A fairy space.
The Fairies' Glen.
Day dreams.
Thermometer 24 degrees.
Mount Oberon.
Titania's spring.
Horses bewitched.
Glen Watson.
Mount Olga in view.
The Musgrave range.

Upon inspection this morning we found but a poor supply of water had
drained into our tank in the night, and that there was by no means
sufficient for the remaining horses; these had no water yesterday. We
passed the forenoon in still enlarging the tank, and as soon as a
bucketful drained in, it was given to one of the horses. We planted
the seeds of a lot of vegetables and trees here, such as Tasmanian
blue gum, wattle, melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, maize, etc.; and then
Mr. Tietkens and I got our horses and rode to the main hills to the
west, in hopes of discovering more water. We started late, and it was
dark when we reached the range. The country passed over between it and
our encampment, was exceedingly beautiful; hills being thrown up in
red ridges of bare rock, with the native fig-tree growing among the
rocks, festooning them into infinite groups of beauty, while the
ground upon which we rode was a perfect carpet of verdure. We were
therefore in high anticipation of finding some waters equivalent to
the scene; but as night was advancing, our search had to be delayed
until the morrow. The dew was falling fast, the night air was cool,
and deliciously laden with the scented exhalations from trees and
shrubs and flowers. The odour of almonds was intense, reminding me of
the perfumes of the wattle blooms of the southern, eastern, and more
fertile portions of this continent. So exquisite was the aroma, that I
recalled to my mind Gordon's beautiful lines:--

"In the spring when the wattle gold trembles,
Twixt shadow and shine,
When each dew-laden air draught resembles;
A long draught of wine."

So delightful indeed was the evening that it was late when we gave
ourselves up to the oblivion of slumber, beneath the cool and starry
sky. We made a fire against a log about eighteen inches thick; this
was a limb from an adjacent blood-wood or red gum-tree, and this
morning we discovered that it had been chopped off its parent stem
either with an axe or tomahawk, and carried some forty or fifty yards
from where it had originally fallen. This seemed very strange; in the
first place for natives, so far out from civilisation as this, to have
axes or tomahawks; and in the second place, to chop logs or boughs off
a tree was totally against their practice. By sunrise we were upon the
summit of the mountain; it consisted of enormous blocks and boulders
of red granite, so riven and fissured that no water could possibly
lodge upon it for an instant. I found it also to be highly magnetic,
there being a great deal of ironstone about the rocks. It turned the
compass needle from its true north point to 10 degrees south of west,
but the attraction ceased when the compass was removed four feet from
contact with the rocks. The view from this mount was of singular and
almost awful beauty. The mount, and all the others connected with it,
rose simply like islands out of a vast ocean of scrub. The beauty of
the locality lay entirely within itself. Innumerable red ridges
ornamented with fig-trees, rising out of green and grassy slopes, met
the eye everywhere to the east, north, and northeast, and the country
between each was just sufficiently timbered to add a charm to the
view. But the appearance of water still was wanting; no signs of it,
or of any basin or hollow that could hold it, met the gaze in any
direction, This alone was wanting to turn a wilderness into a garden.

There were four large mounts in this chain, higher than any of the
rest, including the one I was on. Here we saw a quantity of what I at
first thought were white sea-shells, but we found they were the
bleached shells of land snails. Far away to the north some ranges
appeared above the dense ocean of intervening scrubs. To the south,
scrubs reigned supreme; but to the west, the region for which I was
bound, the prospect looked far more cheering. The far horizon, there,
was bounded by a very long and apparently connected chain of
considerable elevation, seventy to eighty miles away. One conspicuous
mountain, evidently nearer than the longer chain, bore 15 degrees to
the south of west, while an apparent gap or notch in the more distant
line bore 23 degrees south of west. The intervening country appeared
all flat, and very much more open than in any other direction; I could
discern long vistas of green grass, dotted with yellow immortelles,
but as the perspective declined, these all became lost in lightly
timbered country. These grassy glades were fair to see, reminding one
somewhat of Merrie England's glades and Sherwood forests green, where
errant knight in olden days rode forth in mailed sheen; and memory
oft, the golden rover, recalls the tales of old romance, how ladie
bright unto her lover, some young knight, smitten with her glance,
would point out some heroic labour, some unheard-of deed of fame; he
must carve out with his sabre, and ennoble thus his name. He, a giant
must defeat sure, he must free the land from tain, he must kill some
monstrous creature, or return not till 'twas slain. Then she'd smile
on him victorious, call him the bravest in the land, fame and her, to
win, how glorious--win and keep her heart and hand!

Although no water was found here, what it pleases me to call my mind
was immediately made up. I would return at once to the camp, where
water was so scarce, and trust all to the newly discovered chain to
the west. Water must surely exist there, we had but to reach it. I
named these mounts Ayers Range. Upon returning to our camp, six or
seven miles off, I saw that a mere dribble of water remained in the
tank. Gibson was away after the horses, and when he brought them, he
informed me he had found another place, with some water lying on the
rocks, and two native wells close by with water in them, much
shallower than our present one, and that they were about three miles
away. I rode off with him to inspect his new discovery, and saw there
was sufficient surface water for our horses for a day or two.

These rocks are most singular, being mostly huge red, rounded solid
blocks of stone, shaped like the backs of enormous turtles. I was much
pleased with Gibson's discovery, and we moved the camp down to this
spot, which we always after called the Turtle Back. The grass and
herbage were excellent, but the horses had not had sufficient water
since we arrived here. It is wonderful how in such a rocky region so
little water appears to exist. The surface water was rather difficult
for the horses to reach, as it lay upon the extreme summit of the
rock, the sides of which were very steep and slippery. There were
plenty of small birds; hawks and crows, a species of cockatoo, some
pigeons, and eagles soaring high above. More seeds were planted here,
the soil being very good. Upon the opposite or eastern side of this
rock was a large ledge or cave, under which the Troglodytes of these
realms had frequently encamped. It was ornamented with many of their
rude representations of creeping things, amongst which the serpent
class predominated; there were also other hideous shapes, of things
such as can exist only in their imaginations, and they are but the
weak endeavours of these benighted beings to give form and semblance
to the symbolisms of the dread superstitions, that, haunting the
vacant chambers of their darkened minds, pass amongst them in the
place of either philosophy or religion.

Next morning, watering all our horses, and having a fine open-air bath
on the top of the Turtle Back, Mr. Tietkens and I got three of them
and again started for Ayers Range, nearly west. Reaching it, we
travelled upon the bearing of the gap which we had seen in the most
distant range. The country as we proceeded we found splendidly open,
beautifully grassed, and it rose occasionally into some low ridges. At
fifteen miles from the Turtle Back we found some clay-pans with water,
where we turned out our horses for an hour. A mob of emus came to
inspect us, and Mr. Tietkens shot one in a fleshy part of the neck,
which rather helped it to run away at full speed instead of detaining,
so that we might capture it. Next some parallel ridges lying north and
south were crossed, where some beefwood, or Grevillea trees,
ornamented the scene, the country again opening into beautiful grassy
lawns. One or two creek channels were crossed, and a larger one
farther on, whose timber indeed would scarcely reach our course; as it
would not come to us, we went to it. The gum-timber upon it was thick
and vigorous--it came from the north-westward. A quantity of the so
called tea-tree [Melaleuca] grew here. In two miles up the channel we
found where a low ridge crossed and formed a kind of low pass. An old
native well existed here, which, upon cleaning out with a quart pot,
disclosed the element of our search to our view at a depth of nearly
five feet. The natives always make these wells of such an abominable
shape, that of a funnel, never thinking how awkward they must be to
white men with horses--some people are so unfeeling! It took us a long
time to water our three horses. There was a quantity of the little
purple vetch here, of which all animals are so fond, and which is so
fattening. There was plenty of this herb at the Turtle Back, and
wherever it grows it gives the country a lovely carnation tinge; this,
blending with the bright green of the grass, and the yellow and other
tinted hues of several kinds of flowers, impresses on the whole region
the appearance of a garden.

In the morning, in consequence of a cold and dewy night, the horses
declined to drink. Regaining our yesterday's course, we continued for
ten miles, when we noticed that the nearest mountain seen from Ayers
Range was now not more than thirty miles away. It appeared red, bald,
and of some altitude; to our left was another mass of jumbled turtle
backs, and we turned to search for water among them. A small gum creek
to the south-south-east was first visited and left in disgust, and all
the rocks and hills we searched, were equally destitute of water. We
wasted the rest of the day in fruitless search; Nature seemed to have
made no effort whatever to form any such thing as a rockhole, and we
saw no place where the natives had ever even dug. We had been riding
from morning until night, and we had neither found water nor reached
the mountain. We returned to our last night's camp, where the sand had
all fallen into the well, and we had our last night's performance with
the quart pot to do over again.

In the morning I decided to send Mr. Tietkens back to the camp to
bring the party here, while I went to the mountain to search for
water. We now discovered we had brought but a poor supply of food, and
that a hearty supper would demolish the lot, so we had to be sadly
economical. When we got our horses the next morning we departed, each
on his separate errand--Mr. Tietkens for the camp, I for the mountain.
I made a straight course for it, and in three or four miles found the
country exceedingly scrubby. At ten miles I came upon a number of
native huts, which were of large dimensions and two-storied; by this I
mean they had an upper attic, or cupboard recess. When the natives
return to these, I suppose they know of some water, or else get it out
of the roots of trees. The scrubs became thicker and thicker, and only
at intervals could the mountain be seen. At a spot where the natives
had burnt the old grass, and where some new rich vegetation grew, I
gave my horse the benefit of an hour's rest, for he had come
twenty-two miles. The day was delightful; the thermometer registered
only 76 degrees in the shade. I had had a very poor breakfast, and now
had an excellent appetite for all the dinner I could command, and I
could not help thinking that there is a great deal of sound philosophy
in the Chinese doctrine, That the seat of the mind and the intellect
is situate in the stomach.

Starting again and gaining a rise in the dense ocean of scrub, I got a
sight of the mountain, whose appearance was most wonderful; it seemed
so rifted and riven, and had acres of bare red rock without a shrub or
tree upon it. I next found myself under the shadow of a huge rock
towering above me amidst the scrubs, but too hidden to perceive until
I reached it. On ascending it I was much pleased to discover, at a
mile and a half off, the gum timber of a creek which meandered through
this wilderness. On gaining its banks I was disappointed to find that
its channel was very flat and poorly defined, though the timber upon
it was splendid. Elegant upright creamy stems supported their
umbrageous tops, whose roots must surely extend downwards to a
moistened soil. On each bank of the creek was a strip of green and
open ground, so richly grassed and so beautifully bedecked with
flowers that it seemed like suddenly escaping from purgatory into
paradise when emerging from the recesses of the scrubs on to the banks
of this beautiful, I wish I might call it, stream.

Opposite to where I struck it stood an extraordinary hill or ridge,
consisting of a huge red turtle back having a number of enormous red
stones almost egg-shaped, traversing, or rather standing in a row
upon, its whole length like a line of elliptical Tors. I could compare
it to nothing else than an enormous oolitic monster of the turtle kind
carrying its eggs upon its back. A few cypress pine-trees grew in the
interstices of the rocks, giving it a most elegant appearance. Hoping
to find some rock or other reservoir of water, I rode over to this
creature, or feature. Before reaching its foot, I came upon a small
piece of open, firm, grassy ground, most beautifully variegated with
many-coloured vegetation, with a small bare piece of ground in the
centre, with rain water lying on it. The place was so exquisitely
lovely it seemed as if only rustic garden seats were wanting, to prove
that it had been laid out by the hand of man. But it was only an
instance of one of Nature's freaks, in which she had so successfully
imitated her imitator, Art. I watered my horse and left him to graze
on this delectable spot, while I climbed the oolitic's back. There was
not sufficient water in the garden for all my horses, and it was
actually necessary for me to find more, or else the region would be

The view from this hill was wild and strange; the high, bald forehead
of the mountain was still four or five miles away, the country between
being all scrub. The creek came from the south-westward, and was lost
in the scrubs to the east of north. A thick and vigorous clump of
eucalypts down the creek induced me first to visit them, but the
channel was hopelessly dry. Returning, I next went up the creek, and
came to a place where great boulders of stone crossed the bed, and
where several large-sized holes existed, but were now dry. Hard by,
however, I found a damp spot, and near it in the sand a native well,
not more than two feet deep, and having water in it. Still farther up
I found an overhanging rock, with a good pool of water at its foot,
and I was now satisfied with my day's work. Here I camped. I made a
fire at a large log lying in the creek bed; my horse was up to his
eyes in most magnificent herbage, and I could not help envying him as
I watched him devouring his food. I felt somewhat lonely, and
cogitated that what has been written or said by cynics, solitaries, or
Byrons, of the delights of loneliness, has no real home in the human
heart. Nothing could appal the mind so much as the contemplation of
eternal solitude. Well may another kind of poet exclaim, Oh, solitude!
where are the charms that sages have seen in thy face? for human
sympathy is one of the passions of human nature. Natives had been here
very recently, and the scrubs were burning, not far off to the
northwards, in the neighbourhood of the creek channel. As night
descended, I lay me down by my bright camp fire in peace to sleep,
though doubtless there are very many of my readers who would scarcely
like to do the same. Such a situation might naturally lead one to
consider how many people have lain similarly down at night, in fancied
security, to be awakened only by the enemies' tomahawk crashing
through their skulls. Such thoughts, if they intruded themselves upon
my mind, were expelled by others that wandered away to different
scenes and distant friends, for this Childe Harold also had a mother
not forgot, and sisters whom he loved, but saw them not, ere yet his
weary pilgrimage begun.

Dreams also, between sleeping and waking, passed swiftly through my
brain, and in my lonely sleep I had real dreams, sweet, fanciful, and
bright, mostly connected with the enterprise upon which I had
embarked--dreams that I had wandered into, and was passing through,
tracts of fabulously lovely glades, with groves and grottos green,
watered by never-failing streams of crystal, dotted with clusters of
magnificent palm-trees, and having groves, charming groves, of the
fairest of pines, of groves "whose rich trees wept odorous gums and

"And all throughout the night there reigned the sense
Of waking dream, with luscious thoughts o'erladen;
Of joy too conscious made, and too intense,
By the swift advent of this longed-for aidenn."

On awaking, however, I was forced to reflect, how "mysterious are
these laws! The vision's finer than the view: her landscape Nature
never draws so fair as fancy drew." The morning was cold, the
thermometer stood at 28 degrees, and now--

"The morn was up again, the dewy morn;
With breath all incense, and with cheek all bloom,
Laughing the clouds away with playful scorn,
And smiling, as if earth contained no tomb:
And glowing into day."

With this charming extract from Byron for breakfast I saddled my
horse, having nothing more to detain me here, intending to bring up
the whole party as soon as possible.



I now, however, returned by a more southerly route, and found the
scrubs less thick, and came to some low red rises in them. Having
travelled east, I now turned on the bearing for the tea-tree creek,
where the party ought now to be. At six miles on this line I came upon
some open ground, and saw several emus. This induced me to look around
for water, and I found some clay-pans with enough water to last a
week. I was very well pleased, as this would save time and trouble in
digging at the tea-tree. The water here was certainly rather thick,
and scarcely fit for human organisms, at least for white ones, though
it might suit black ones well enough, and it was good enough for our
horses, which was the greatest consideration. I rested my horse here
for an hour, and then rode to the tea-tree. The party, however, were
not there, and I waited in expectation of their arrival. In about an
hour Mr. Tietkens came and informed me that on his return to the camp
the other day he had found a nice little water, six miles from here,
and where the party was, and to which we now rode together. At this
agreeable little spot were the three essentials for an explorer's
camp--that is to say, wood, water, and grass. From there we went to my
clay pans, and the next day to my lonely camp of dreams. This, the
30th August, was an auspicious day in our travels, it being no less
than Mr. Tietkens's nine-and-twentieth birthday. We celebrated it with
what honours the expedition stores would afford, obtaining a flat
bottle of spirits from the medical department, with which we drank to
his health and many happier returns of the day. In honour of the
occasion I called this Tietkens's Birthday Creek, and hereby proclaim
it unto the nations that such should be its name for ever. The camp
was not moved, but Mr. Tietkens and I rode over to the high mountain
to-day, taking with us all the apparatus necessary for so great an
ascent--that is to say, thermometer, barometer, compass, field
glasses, quart pot, waterbag, and matches. In about four miles we
reached its foot, and found its sides so bare and steep that I took
off my boots for the ascent. It was formed for the most part like a
stupendous turtle back, of a conglomerate granite, with no signs of
water, or any places that would retain it for a moment, round or near
its base. Upon reaching its summit, the view was most extensive in
every direction except the west, and though the horizon was bounded in
all directions by ranges, yet scrubs filled the entire spaces between.
To the north lay a long and very distant range, which I thought might
be the Gill's Range of my last expedition, though it would certainly
be a stretch either of imagination or vision, for that range was
nearly 140 miles away.

To the north-westward was a flat-topped hill, rising like a table from
an ocean of scrub; it was very much higher than such hills usually
are. This was Mount Conner. To the south, and at a considerable
distance away, lay another range of some length, apparently also of
considerable altitude. I called this the Everard Range. The horizon
westward was bounded by a continuous mass of hills or mountains, from
the centre of which Birthday Creek seemed to issue. Many of the mounts
westward appeared of considerable elevation. The natives were burning
the scrubs west and north-west. On the bare rocks of this mountain we
saw several white, bleached snail-shells. I was grieved to find that
my barometer had met with an accident in our climb; however, by
testing the boiling point of water I obtained the altitude.

Water boiled at 206 degrees, giving an elevation of 3085 feet above
the level of the sea, it being about 1200 feet above the surrounding
country. The view of Birthday Creek winding along in little bends
through the scrubs from its parent mountains, was most pleasing. Down
below us were some very pretty little scenes. One was a small sandy
channel, like a plough furrow, with a few eucalyptus trees upon it,
running from a ravine near the foot of this mount, which passed at
about a mile through two red mounds of rock, only just wide enough
apart to admit of its passage. A few cypress pines were growing close
to the little gorge. On any other part of the earth's surface, if,
indeed, such another place could be found, water must certainly exist
also, but here there was none. We had a perfect bird's-eye view of the
spot. We could only hope, for beauty and natural harmony's sake, that
water must exist, at least below the surface, if not above. Having
completed our survey, we descended barefooted as before.

On reaching the camp, Gibson and Jimmy had shot some parrots and other
birds, which must have flown down the barrels of their guns, otherwise
they never could have hit them, and we had an excellent supper of
parrot soup. Just here we have only seen parrots, magpies and a few
pigeons, though plenty of kangaroo, wallaby, and emu; but have not
succeeded in bagging any of the latter game, as they are exceedingly
shy and difficult to approach, from being so continually hunted by the
natives. I named this very singular feature Mount Carnarvon, or The
Sentinel, as soon I found

"The mountain there did stand
T sentinel enchanted land."

The night was cold; mercury down to 26 degrees. What little dew fell
became frosted; there was not sufficient to call it frozen. I found my
position here to be in latitude 26 degrees 3', longitude 132 degrees

In the night of the 1st September, heavy clouds were flying fastly
over us, and a few drops of rain fell at intervals. About ten o'clock
p.m. I observed a lunar rainbow in the northern horizon; its diameter
was only about fifteen degrees. There were no prismatic colours
visible about it. To-day was clear, fine, but rather windy. We
travelled up the creek, skirting its banks, but cutting off the bends.
We had low ridges on our right. The creek came for some distance from
the south-west, then more southerly, then at ten miles, more directly
from the hills to the west. The country along its banks was excellent,
and the scenery most beautiful--pine-clad, red, and rocky hills being
scattered about in various directions, while further to the west and
south-west the high, bold, and very rugged chain rose into peaks and
points. We only travelled sixteen miles, and encamped close to a
pretty little pine-clad hill, on the north bank of the creek, where
some rocks traversed the bed, and we easily obtained a good supply of
water. The grass and herbage being magnificent, the horses were in a
fine way to enjoy themselves.

This spot is one of the most charming that even imagination could
paint. In the background were the high and pointed peaks of the main
chain, from which sloped a delightful green valley; through this the
creek meandered, here and there winding round the foot of little
pine-clad hills of unvarying red colour, whilst the earth from which
they sprung was covered with a carpet of verdure and vegetation of
almost every imaginable hue. It was happiness to lie at ease upon such
a carpet and gaze upon such a scene, and it was happiness the more
ecstatic to know that I was the first of a civilised race of men who
had ever beheld it. My visions of a former night really seemed to be
prophetic. The trend of the creek, and the valley down which it came,
was about 25 degrees south of west. We soon found it became contracted
by impinging hills. At ten miles from camp we found a pool of water in
the bed. In about a couple of miles farther, to my surprise I found we
had reached its head and its source, which was the drainage of a big
hill. There was no more water and no rock-holes, neither was there any
gorge. Some triodia grew on the hills, but none on the lower ground.
The valley now changed into a charming amphitheatre. We had thus
traced our Birthday Creek, to its own birthplace. It has a short
course, but a merry one, and had ended for us at its proper beginning.
As there appeared to be no water in the amphitheatre, we returned to
the pool we had seen in the creek. Several small branch creeks running
through pretty little valleys joined our creek to-day. We were now
near some of the higher cones of the main chain, and could see that
they were all entirely timberless, and that triodia grew upon their
sides. The spot we were now encamped upon was another scene of
exquisite sylvan beauty. We had now been a month in the field, as
to-morrow was the 4th of September, and I could certainly congratulate
myself upon the result of my first month's labour.

The night was cold and windy, dense nimbus clouds hovered just above
the mountain peaks, and threatened a heavy downpour of rain, but the
driving gale scattered them into the gelid regions of space, and after
sunrise we had a perfectly clear sky. I intended this morning to push
through what seemed now, as it had always seemed from the first moment
I saw this range, a main gap through the chain. Going north round a
pointed hill, we were soon in the trend of the pass; in five miles we
reached the banks of a new creek, running westerly into another, or
else into a large eucalyptus flat or swamp, which had no apparent
outlet. This heavy timber could be seen for two or three miles.
Advancing still further, I soon discovered that we were upon the reedy
banks of a fast flowing stream, whose murmuring waters, ever rushing
idly and unheeded on, were now for the first time disclosed to the
delighted eyes of their discoverer.

Here I had found a spot where Nature truly had

"Shed o'er the scene her purest of crystal, her brightest of green."

This was really a delightful discovery. Everything was of the best
kind here--timber, water, grass, and mountains. In all my wanderings,
over thousands of miles in Australia, I never saw a more delightful
and fanciful region than this, and one indeed where a white man might
live and be happy. My dreams of a former night were of a verity

Geographically speaking, we had suddenly come almost upon the extreme
head of a large water course. Its trend here was nearly south, and I
found it now ran through a long glen in that direction.

We saw several fine pools and ponds, where the reeds opened in the
channel, and we flushed up and shot several lots of ducks. This creek
and glen I have named respectively the Ferdinand and Glen Ferdinand,
after the Christian name of Baron von Mueller. (The names having a
star * against them in this book denote contributors to the fund
raised by Baron Mueller* for this expedition.--E.G.) The glen extended
nearly five miles, and where it ended, the water ceased to show upon
the surface. At the end of the glen we encamped, and I do not remember
any day's work during my life which gave me more pleasure than this,

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