Explorations in Australia The Journals of John McDouall Stuart
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Explorations in Australia by John McDouall Stuart
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My attention being engaged in keeping the bearing, I did not observe him until he moved, but I pulled up at once, lest he should run away, and called to him. What he imagined I was I do not know; but when he turned round and saw me, I never beheld a finer picture of astonishment and fear. He was a fine muscular fellow, about six feet in height, and stood as if riveted to the spot, with his mouth wide open, and his eyes staring. I sent our black forward to speak with him, but omitted to tell him to dismount. The terrified native remained motionless, allowing our black to ride within a few yards of him, when, in an instant, he threw down his waddies, and jumped up into a mulga bush as high as he could, one foot being about three feet from the ground, and the other about two feet higher, and kept waving us off with his hand as we advanced.
I expected every moment to see the bush break with his weight. When close under the bush, I told our black to inquire if he were a Wingillpin native. He was so frightened he could not utter a word, and trembled from head to foot.
Explorations in Australia : John McDouall Stuart :
We then asked him where Wingillpin was. He mustered courage to let go one hand, and emphatically snapping his fingers in a north-west direction, again waved us off. I take this emphatic snapping of his fingers to mean a long distance. Probably this Wingillpin may be Cooper's Creek.
We then left him, and proceeded on our way through the sand hills. About an hour before sunset, we came in full sight of a number of tent and table-topped hills to the north-west, the stony table land being to the south of us, and the dip of the country still towards Lake Torrens.
I shall keep a little more to the west to-morrow if possible, to get the fall of the country the other way. The horses' shoes have been worn quite thin by the stones, and will not last above a day or two. Nay, some of the poor animals are already shoeless. It is most unfortunate that we did not bring another set with us. Distance to-day, twenty-four miles. Saturday, 26th June, Edge of Plain. After ten miles the sand hills ceased, and at thirteen miles we reached the point of the stony table land.
Stuart, John McDouall (1815–1866)
Here we saw, to the north-north-west, what was apparently a large gum creek, running north-east and south-west. Changing our bearing to degrees, after seven miles of very bad stony plain, thinly covered with salt bush and grass, we came upon the creek, and found long reaches of permanent water, divided here and there by only a few yards of rocks, and bordered by reeds and rushes. The water hole, by which we camped, is from forty to fifty feet wide, and half a mile in length; the water is excellent, and I could see small fish in it about two inches long.
About ten miles down the creek the country seems to be more open, and the gum-trees much larger, and in a distant bend of the creek I can perceive a large body of water. The first of the seven or eight tent-like hills that were to the east of our route to-day presents a somewhat remarkable appearance. Of a conical form, it comes to a point like a Chinaman's hat, and is encircled near the top by a black ring, while some rocks resembling a white tower crown the summit.
Distance to-day, twenty miles. Sunday, 27th June, Large Water Creek. Cloudy morning, with prospect of rain. A swan visited the water hole last night, and to-day we have seen both the mountain duck and the large black duck. Having a shoe to fix upon Jersey, and my courses to map down, we did not get a start until 10 o'clock, and we were obliged to stop early in consequence of the grey mare getting so lame that we were unable to proceed. We had an old shoe or two, and Mr.
Forster managed to get one on the mare. We started to-day on a bearing of degrees for eight miles to a low flat-topped hill, when we changed to degrees for five miles to a gum creek with rain water. About five miles to the north of our line there are flat-topped ranges, running north-east. The main creek runs on the south side of this course, and nearly parallel to it.
Further to the south, at a distance of about ten miles, is still the stony table land with the sand hills. The country is fearfully stony, but improves a little in grass as we get west. It seems to be well watered. Distance to-day, about twelve miles. Monday, 28th June, Gum Creek. There has been a little rain during the night, and it is still coming down.
As I am so far north, I regret that I am unable to go a little further, fearing the lameness of the horses from the stony nature of the country. I intend to follow the creek up, if it comes from the west, or a little to the north of west, to see if I cannot make the fall of the country to the south-west, and get on a better road for the horses. We started on a bearing of degrees, but after a mile and a half, finding the creek wind too much to the north, we changed our course to degrees for five miles to a small flat-topped hill. Changed our bearing again to degrees for twenty-two miles to a tent hill, on the south side of which we camped.
This part of the country is very stony and bad, with salt bush and very little grass. It has evidently been the course of a large water at some time, and reminded me of the stony desert of Captain Sturt. Bleak, barren, and desolate, it grows no timber, so that we scarcely can find sufficient wood to boil our quart pot.
The rain, which poured down upon us all day, so softened the ground that the horses could tread the stones into it, and we got along much better than we expected. Distance to-day, twenty-eight miles and a half.
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Started at 8. At eight miles crossed a gum creek, with polyganum, running to the north. At twelve miles crossed another, trending in the same direction. These creeks are wide and formed into numerous channels. I expected to have done thirty miles to-day, but am disappointed, for we were obliged to halt early, after having gone only eighteen miles, as my horse was quite lame. How much do we feel the want of another set of horse-shoes! We have, however, still got an old shoe left, which is put on this afternoon.
It had continued raining all last night, but not heavily, and cleared off in the morning shortly after we started. Our travelling to-day has been still very stony, over stony rises; the stony table land that has been all along on our left is now trending more to the south-west. The country is more open: in looking at it from one of the rises it has the appearance of an immense plain, studded with isolated flat-topped hills. The last eight miles is better grassed and has more salt bush.
Camped on a small creek in the stony rises. Distance to-day, eighteen miles.