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addressee author,male,Giles, Ernest,37
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Giles, 1872
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AFTER A RATHER prolonged sojourn at the Peake (where I met great hospitality, both from MT Blood, of the Telegraph Department, and from Messrs Bagot & Conway, of the cattle Station), I arrived at the Charlotte Waters Telegraph Station on the 4th August, 1872, which would be my last outpost of civilization. I and my friend Mr Carmichael were most kindly welcomed by Mr Johnston, the officer in charge of this depot, and by Mr Chandler, a gentleman belonging to a telegraph station further up the line, and in consequence of the kindness we received I extended my stay here to a week. My horses were all the better for a short respite, for the journey up from Port Augusta for several hundreds of miles being nearly destitute of grass had reduced them to a very low state; from the Stangways, however, the country had been better clothed.
The party consisted of myself, Mr Carmichael, and Alexander Robinson, fifteen horses, and one little dog. We at length started from the Charlotte on the morning of the 12th August; and, as my intended starting point to the west was Chambers's Pillar, upon the Finke Creek, I proceeded up the line as far as the crossing place of the last-mentioned creek, which is sixty miles by road, though only fifty-three by the line. In the evening of the same day we encamped there, a Government party also arrived under the command of Mr McMinn, who had completed his section, and was now en route for the metropolis. Mr Harley Bacon, who had been in charge of all the Government stock, also accompanied him, and I had the pleasure of their company at the camp. Near this crossing place a considerable tributary joins the Finke near the foot of Mount Humphries; and Mr McMinn, Mr Bacon, and myself went a few miles up it the following day. [10] Had I found it coming from the west, I had an idea of leaving the line and proceeding up it; but we found its course to be considerably from the south of west. We found a waterhole about twelve miles above the junction, and returned. The country consisted chiefly of open sandhills well grassed, but the grass was very dry. We retraced our steps, and returned again to the camp. The following day Mr McMinn and Mr Bacon, after making me several kind presents, left for the Charlotte, but I did not remove my camp until the day following. I must here remark Mr McMinn had but recently returned from an exploring trip out to the eastwards from the MacDonnell Range, having descended the Todd Creek and followed it up for some considerable distance until the country became waterless. I obtained from Mr McMinn before starting, however, the true course and distance from our camp to the Pillar, and at starting again I travelled upon it; to do so, however, I crossed the Finke three or four times, and on the night of the 22nd August I encamped upon the creek, having the Pillar in full view.
August 23rd. - We made an early start this morning, and made straight for the Pillar, which bore nearly north-west-by-north from camp. The appearance of this feature I should imagine to be unique in Australia, and it is not likely that any future explorer will ever discover so singular a monument wherewith to immortalize either himself or his patron. For a more detailed account of it I must refer the reader to Stuart's own report of it, but cannot pass it by without a brief description. First, then, to approach the Pillar, which can be seen for a long distance from any side except the north, the traveller must pass over a series of red sandhills, mostly covered with scrub, and clothed with that objectionable vegetable production the spinifex (Triodia irritans), or, as it may be more easily recognized by some, the porcupine grass. In regions more to eastwards this plant usually grows only in mallee; here it obtains alone. The timber near the Pillar is nearly all mulga, though a few tall and well-grown oaks of a kind that is new to me (Casuarina) are occasionally met with amongst the spinifex. [11] On our route Mr Carmichael discovered and brought to me a most peculiar lizard, the Moloch horridus, a true native of the soil. Its colour was mostly yellowish green. It was armed at all points and joints with stout thorns or spines in double rows along its back, sides, and legs; they were curved and sharp. On the back of its neck was a thick knotty lump, with one spine from that, and by which I lifted it. Its tail was armed to the point, and of proportional length to its body. It was altogether about seven or eight inches long. I put it into a pouch and intended to preserve it, but it managed to crawl out of the receptacle and dropped again to its native earth.
By this time we were close to the Pillar, and its outline was most imposing. Upon reaching it I found it to be a columnar structure, standing upon a pedestal which is, perhaps, eighty feet high, and composed of loose white sandstone, having vast numbers of large blocks loose and lying about in all directions. From the centre of the pedestal rises the Pillar, composed also of the same kind of stone, though at its top and for about twenty or thirty feet from its summit the colour of the stone is red. The column itself must be about 150 feet above the pedestal. There it stands (not, indeed, quite alone, as there are other peculiar eminences near), a vast monument of the geological periods that must have elapsed since the mountain ridge of which it was formerly a part was washed by the action of the ocean waves into mere sandhills at its feet. The stone of which it is formed is so friable that one can cut their names in it to almost any depth with a pocket-knife; so loose, indeed, is it, that one almost feels alarmed lest it should fall while he is scratching at its base. In a small orifice or chamber of the Pillar I discovered an opossum asleep; it was the first I had seen in this part of the country, and I was not sure if they inhabited it or no. We turned our backs upon this peculiar monument and left it in its loneliness and its grandeur - 'Clothed in white (sandstone), mystic, wonderful'. [12]
From there we travelled on a bearing of south 87° west, and in seventeen miles came upon some very high sandhills, at whose feet the creek swept; we followed round them to a convenient spot, and one where the horses could water without bogging (I should have mentioned before that the Finke is without exception the most boggy creek channel I have ever met). As we had travelled several miles in the morning to the Pillar, and the camp was eighteen miles beyond it, it was late in the afternoon when we encamped. The country passed over consisted mostly of scrubby sandhills, covered with spinifex, and we passed between some low hills before we reached the creek - there was a salt channel where we struck it, and a long hole of brine existed there - there was plenty of good grass on a flat, and we got some tolerably good water near where we fixed our camp; and when we had finished our evening meal the shades of night descended upon us, in this our first bivouac in the unknown interior.
August 24th. - The mean of meridian altitudes of Vega and Altair last night placed me in latitude 24° 52' 15". The night was excessively cold, and the thermometer had fallen by daylight this morning to 18°, our blankets and packs were covered with a thick coating of ice when we awoke, the tea left in the pannikins overnight had become solid cakes; the water in the creek was running, so it of course did not become frozen. I determined to rest here for a couple of days, as I had many matters to attend to - one of which was to unshoe all my horses, as having now reached a soft country, I would put the shoes away until I might require them again. From the high sandhills near the camp, as far as I could discern either with the eye or the glass, the creek seemed to be coming from the west. I took some back bearings upon the Pillar - and decided to travel on a north-west course when I started again; for, although the creek appeared to come from the west, and west was the point I desired to travel upon, yet I could not be too cautious in proceeding, as I felt certain that eventually it would turn up towards the north or north-west, and I should only get caught in a long bend, and have to go several miles to get out again. [13] The weather today was most agreeably warm and pleasant, with slight breeze from the north-west. We saw the smoke of burning grass, set on fire by the natives, to the south, beyond a line of ranges that lay in that direction; they had a very red appearance, are composed of red sandstone - they had a series of ancient ocean watermarks along their sides, traceable for miles - I called this Johnston's Range, after my hospitable host at the Charlotte. There must be some natives about, though we have not seen any since leaving the last-named place.
August 25th, Sunday. - Last night was cold certainly, but not so intense as the night previously, the lowest the thermometer fell to was 30°, but there was no appearance of ice or even frost; a very cold puff of wind aroused us from our slumbers about daylight - it continued from the west all day. The sun threw some rather fiery glances upon us about two and three o'clock; the thermometer rose to 110° in the sun, but in the shade the temperature was agreeable enough. The flies were rather troublesome at times during the day, but after three o'clock they mostly depart. As night approached we could see the brilliant flames of a large grass fire to the north about five or six miles distant; this had been started during the afternoon by some prowling son of the soil.
Monday, 26th August. - Last night was again exceedingly cold, the thermometer at daylight standing at 20°. Some wild animal or other must have been prowling round the camp in the night, for my little dog exhibited great signs of pertubation for several hours. I and Robinson lay awake listening for any sounds that might give us an idea of our intruders, and we both fancied we heard the sounds of human voices - we both got up, and the little dog continued to bark, but we neither saw or heard anything more.
The horses being near we made an early start this morning, and bore away to the north-west, over a sandhill country covered with spinifex; it was heavy and distressing travelling for the horses, making them continually jog and jump from the pain caused by the countless prickings they received from the sharp thorny spines of the vegetation they had to pass through. [14] I continued upon this course for eleven miles; and, though from the top of a high sandhill which we reached, we could see nothing whatever of the Finke, still I determined to continue another mile or two on this course, hoping I had taken the right direction, and that we should meet the creek in a few more miles. We therefore proceeded on, and in two miles we came right upon the top of it, running under a ridge of high sandhills - its course from this point appeared to incline a good deal to the northwards. The horses being very heavily packed, and the spinifex having distressed them a good deal, we followed along the bank of the creek, and found a convenient spot where the horses could water without bogging, and camped, after a day's stage of thirteen miles. We passed a few clumps of the fine-looking oak trees I have before mentioned; they grow to a height of twenty to twenty-five feet of barrel without a branch, and then spread out into a fine and shady top. They, however, appear to inhabit the poorest region as far as soil is concerned, for they grow out of pure red sand. A few bushes also grow on these sandhills, and the unfailing - or, I might say, unfeeling - spinifex is the only other vegetation. I also noticed a few specimens of a stunted kind of eucalypt of the mallee species. There was a large sheet of water near our camp, and we shot a few ducks which were settled upon it when we arrived. The day was agreeably warm and pleasant, with light cool breezes from the north-west. An apparently small tributary from the westward joins the Finke to the southwards from our camp, and a rather high dark-looking hill forms its most southern embankment. The horizon to the west is bounded by broken ranges, of no great elevation; they extend also up to the north-west, The course of the creek from here being so much towards the north, our westing is prevented for the present. As we ascend the Finke the country gradually rises, and we are here about 250 feet above the level of the Charlotte Waters Station. [15]
Tuesday, 27th August. - The early part of last night was remarkably warm; but towards midnight it became cold enough. The thermometer at daylight had fallen to 28°, but there was neither frost nor dew. Nothing occurred during the night to disturb the stillness of the camp, and we made an early start again this morning at eight o'clock.
Having discovered last evening that the creek not only trended north, but more north-easterly, I started on a bearing of N 2° E, and passed over several high sandhills. In two miles we met the creek, almost at right angles. I was unwilling to attempt to cross it, on account of its frightful boggy bed: but, rather than travel several miles roundabout, I decided to try it. We got over it all right, certainly - but to see horses sinking bodily in a mass of quaking quicksand is by no means an agreeable sight; and it was only by urging them on with whips, to prevent them delaying, that we accomplished it in safety; the horses we were riding getting the worst ground, as it had been so ploughed up by the packhorses ahead of them. The whole bed of this peculiar creek appears a perfect quicksand; and when my readers are told it is nearly a quarter of a mile wide, they will understand that it is not a feature to be slighted. A stream of slightly brackish water was flowing along its bed, in a much narrower channel than its whole width; and where the water is there the bog is most to be apprehended. Sometimes it runs under one bank, sometimes the opposite, and sometimes in the middle; and a horse may walk upon apparently firm sand towards the stream, when, without a second's warning, horse and rider may be engulfed in quicksand. In other places, where it is firmer, it will quake for yards all around, and thus give some warning.
After crossing, I proceeded upon the same course, having the creek now upon my right hand - over more sandhills and through more spinifex for three miles, being five from camp. [16]
Here I changed course to N 17° W, and at one and a half miles reached a high sandhill. From this point I sighted a continuous range of hills to the north, running east and west; and with the glasses I could see the creek bearing up for them. I changed my course for a conspicuous hill in the range, bearing N 55° W, again having the Finke close under our feet and lying right in our course. The alternative of travelling round the long bends was not an agreeable one; and as we had so successfully crossed it once this morning, I decided to try it again. We descended to the bank, and after great trouble in finding a place firm enough and sufficiently large to allow all the horses to stand upon (in the bed), we could not find a place where they could mount the opposite bank, for under it was a long reach of water and a perfect quagmire extending for more than a mile on each side of us. Two of our riding horses were bogged in trying to find a getaway. Finally we had to bridge a place over with boughs and sticks and flood drift, which took us some time. We eventually got them over, one by one, without accident or loss, We then proceeded on our course, and in four miles we touched upon the creek again, but had no occasion to recross it as it was not in our road. At three miles further we crossed the dry channel of a small tributary from the ranges to the north of us, which formed a junction with the main creek which here swept round an elbow towards the west. We found a good watering place in the course of another mile, and encamped, having travelled fifteen miles. The horizon from this camp is bounded from the southwest and west, round by north to north-east, by ranges, which I am very glad to perceive; those to the south-west and west being the highest and most pointed. It appears that the creek must come under or through some of those to the north-west. The northern range is distant from camp about six miles: they appear timbered with mulga. Today I observed a most beautiful, and to me quite new pigeon on the creek; it is of a dark-brown colour, mottled under the throat and on the breast. It is considerably smaller than the Sturt pigeon; it had, also, a high topknot. [17] It flies in small flocks, and runs along the ground for considerable distances.
Wednesday, 28th August. - The temperature of the atmosphere last night was warmer than usual, and the thermometer did not fall lower than 46°.
We made an early start this morning and proceeded on a north-west course for a pointed and peculiar hill in the ranges to the northwards of us, which we reached in five miles, and found the creek flowing at its base. We passed over the usual red sandhills, covered with spinifex, that characterize the Finke country; we also passed a shallow sheet of rainwater in a large claypan, which is a rather rate feature to meet with in this part of the country. As we approached the hill I was steering for, it assumed the appearance of a high pinnacle, and the broken fragments of rocks upon its sides and summit made it too rough and precipitous to allow a person to climb up it; to the north, the main line of hills to which this belongs shut out the view in that direction, though I obtained a view of the Finke towards the west. I named this peculiar hill after my namesake Mr Christopher Giles, who is also an officer on the Telegraph staff at the Charlotte, but was absent on leave at the time of my visit there; and as he is an old Barrier Range acquaintance of mine I called this hill Christopher's Pinnacle, and the range behind it Chandler's Range, after Mr Chandler I met at the Charlotte.
The creek from here seemed to come from the west, and the line of hills also trended the same way, so I turned my course to N 80° W; in two miles we crossed the dry channel of a watercourse that comes directly from the hills to the N-W and joins the Finke at this spot - it was broad and shallow, and had very little timber upon it. For some miles we had met with very little spinifex but here we came into it again, to the manifest disgust of our horses. We were now travelling along the foot of the hills on our right with the creek upon our left hand; in six or seven miles we came to the western termination of Chandler's Range, when we obtained a view to the N and N-W, where I could see another and much higher range running east and west, parallel to Chandler's Range, but extending to the west as far as I could see. [18] The country hereabouts has nearly all been burnt by the natives; and the horses of course endeavour to pick roads where the dreaded spinifex has been destroyed. We passed a few clumps of oaks and a few stunted specimens of the native poplar today. At the end of twelve miles upon this bearing we struck the Finke again at right angles, it here running N-and-S; we travelled seventeen miles today. I found a fine reach of water here, and the creek has a stony bed, so tonight, at least, our anxiety as regards the horses bogging is at an end; the stream running over its stony bed produces a most agreeable sound, such as I have not heard for many a long month.
Soon after we had unpacked and let go our horses we were accosted by a cooey from a native on the opposite side of the creek - our little dog became furious, and two natives then made their appearance. We made an attempt at a long conversation, but signally failed, as neither of us understood one word the other was saying, so I shot a hawk for them and they departed. The weather today was most agreeably fine, with cool breezes from the N-E; the sky has been rather overcast, and the flies are most troublesome; it is probable we may have a slight fall of rain before long.
Thursday, 29th August. - The night was cloudy and warm, a few heat drops fell upon our blankets and made me regret I had not had our tents erected; however, no fall took place, so my anxiety with regard to the stores was at an end. When morning broke the atmosphere felt heavy and there was a sultriness in the air though the sky was clear; the lowest the thermometer fell to was 52°, and at sunrise a smoky haze appeared all round the horizon until it pervaded the whole sky.
Whilst we were packing the horses this morning the same two natives made their appearance again, bringing with them a third who was painted and feathered in the (as they doubtless thought) most alarming manner. I had just mounted my horse and rode towards them thinking I might get some little intelligence out of the warrior as to the course of the creek, etc., but the instant they saw the horse approaching them they scampered off, and the bedizened warrior projected himself into the friendly branches of the nearest tree with most astonishing velocity, so I perceived it was useless to attempt to get near them with a horse without running them down, which, as I had no desire to do, I left them. [19]
We crossed the creek here on its stony bed, and travelled on a north-west course towards a mountain in the ranges that traversed the horizon in that direction; it also appeared the direction from whence the creek came. A breeze sprang up from the N-W also, which caused the dust raised by the packhorses, travelling upon loose soil where the grass had all been burnt, to blow directly into our faces. At five miles on this course the creek returned to us in a bend, and at this point we could perceive great volumes of smoke from burning grass rising in all directions; the natives, I suppose, finding it easier to catch game when the ground is bare or covered only with a short vegetation, than when clothed with thick coarse grass or spinifex. At eight miles a tributary creek joins the Finke from the north or east of north. It had a broad sandy bed, but was destitute of water, at least where I saw it. At another mile on this course the main creek swept round to the westwards, under the foot of the hills we had been gradually approaching. From here I changed my course to west, and, indeed, a few degrees south of west, and at four miles found we had parted with the Finke, and were upon the bank of another tributary, whose junction I had not noticed. The water was running along its bed, but in a very slender stream. It was exceedingly boggy, and we had to pass up a couple of miles before we found a crossing place; which we at length did. I named this McMinn's Creek, after Mr McMinn I have mentioned in the opening of my diary. We turned north after crossing this creek over some stony, mulga hills, and came down upon the Finke again in two miles, where we encamped, having travelled seventeen miles. [20] 
In the evening I ascended a mountain in the ranges to the north of us; it bore N 330 W; it was very stony and precipitous; it was composed of red sandstone; was of some elevation, viz., 800 feet; it had no other vegetation upon it than huge plots of spinifex of the most beautiful and vivid green imaginable, also having the most formidable spines, and whenever one moves they enter one's clothes in all directions, making it truly unpleasant to walk through. From the summit of this hill I could perceive that the Finke turned up towards the hills through a glen, and entered them in a north-westerly direction from the camp. Other mountains appeared in all directions to the N and N-W; indeed, this seemed to be a range of mountains of great length and breadth. To the eastward it stretched as far probably as the telegraph line, and to the west as far as the eye could reach. The sun had gone down before I had finished taking bearings. Our road tomorrow will consequently be up through the glen the creek issues from. All day a most objectionable hot wind from the W and N-W has been blowing, and clouds of smoke and ashes from the grass fires, and clouds of dust from the loose soil, has made it one of the most disagreeable days I have ever spent. At night, however, a contrast obtained - the wind dropped, and a calm, clear, and beautiful night succeeded the hot, smoky, and dusty day.
Friday, 30th August. - A meridian altitude of the bright star Vega last night gave me my latitude as 24° 25' 12"; and though yesterday had been so hot and disagreeable, the night proved cold and chilly; the thermometer fell to 24° by daylight, but there was no frost or even any dew to freeze. Our start this morning was rather late, some of the horses having rambled in the night, the feed at the camp not being very good; indeed, the only green herb I have met for some considerable distance is the sow thistle, which grows to a considerable height, and the horses are extremely fond of it; it is also very fattening.
Having at length got under way, we proceeded N-W for the mouth of the glen I mentioned yesterday, through which the creek issues. [21] In two miles we found ourselves fairly enclosed by the hills, which close in upon the creek upon both sides. We had to follow the windings of the channel, which is most serpentine, the mountains occasionally forming steep precipices, overhanging the stream first upon one side, then upon the other. We often had to lead the horses over ledges of rocks - crossing and recrossing the creek perpetually. When we encamped we had only made good eleven miles, though to accomplish this we travelled more than double the distance.
We camped close to the junction of a branch creek that comes out of the mountain to the westwards. There was a good-sized waterhole at its mouth. I have named this Phillips's Creek, after Mr Phillips, the telegraph stationmaster at Port Augusta, who was kind enough to make me a valuable present when passing through that town. This range of mountains is composed of red sandstone, in large or small fragments piled up in the most grotesque shapes. Here and there caves and caverns are to be seen in the sides of the hills. A few pine (Callitris) trees were seen upon the summits of the higher mounts. The hills and country generally inside this glen are more fertile than those outside, having real grass instead of spinifex upon their sides. I saw two or three natives just before camping. They were upon the opposite side of the creek, which always appears a slight weakness of theirs. Just at the time I saw them I had my eye upon some ducks upon the waterhole, I therefore determined to kill two birds with one stone, that is to say, shoot the ducks and astonish the natives at the same time. I dismounted and got behind a tree (the natives watching me most intently the while), and fired; two only were shot, and the remainder of the ducks, and the natives (apparently) flew away together. Our travels today were agreeable, the day was fine, the breeze cool, and the scenery continually changing - the creek continually taking the most sinuous windings imaginable; the bed of it, as might be expected, through such a glen, is rough and stony, and the old fear of horses bogging has departed from us. By bearings upon familiar hills, I find our course in a straight line has been nearly N 23° W. [22]
Saturday, 31st August. - Last night was clear and cold, the stars, those sentinels of the sky, appearing intensely bright; and to the explorer they must ever be objects of admiration and love, as to them he is indebted for his guidance through the untrodden wilderness he is traversing. The thermometer went down to 24° by daylight, but upon the appearance of the sun the temperature rose rapidly. A large flock of several hundreds of pelicans made their appearance upon the waterhole near the camp this morning, but immediately they discovered us they made off, before a shot could be fired at them; they came from the north-westward, and indeed all the aquatic birds that I have seen upon the wing, come and go in that direction; though there are plenty of small fish in the Finke, yet I do not think they are large enough for mobs of pelicans to exist upon; these birds must have come from some larger waters, I should suppose, up in the tropic; the largest fish I have seen in the Finke was not bigger than a sardine. I am in hopes we shall get through this glen today, for however picturesque and wild the scenery, it is very difficult and bad travelling for the horses, and consequently more trouble to get them along.
We made but a late start this morning; there was no other road than to continue following the windings of the creek through this mountain-bound glen, in the same manner as yesterday. After travelling some miles, I observed several natives in the glen, ahead of us. Immediately upon their discovering us, they raised a great outcry - made several fires, and raised great volumes of smoke, probably as signals to their friends in the first instance, and to intimidate us in the second - which latter effect did not take place. They then considered it their interests to be off themselves, and they ran away further up the glen; I saw also another lot of some twenty or thirty scudding away over the rocks and hills to our right; they left all their valuables in the camp, which we saw as we passed. [23] One gentleman most vehemently apostrophized us from the summit of a rocky hill, and most probably ordered us away out of his country. We paid, as may be supposed, but little attention to his yells; as his words to us were only wind, we passed on, leaving him and his camp as mere incidents in a day's march. Soon after leaving his camp I had the gratification to discover a magnificent specimen of the fan palm growing in the channel of the watercourse, with the drift of floods washed against its stem, its dome-shaped frondage contrasting strangely with the paler-green foliage of the gum trees that surrounded it. It was a perfectly new botanical feature to me, nor did I expect ever to have met it in this latitude. Stuart found a specimen in the MacDonnell Range, but that was just inside the tropic. I had certainly been on the lookout for such an object, as I had noticed portions of palm leaves and branches in the flood drifts against the butts of the trees in the glen. This fine specimen was sixty feet high in the barrel. I obtained a quantity of its leaves for my kind and generous friend, the Baron von Mueller, which I brought with me. After passing the palm tree we continued our march amongst the defiles of this mountain glen, which appears to have no termination, for no signs of a break could be seen, or anything but a continuation of this range observed from any of the hills I ascended. It was late in the afternoon when we left the palm tree, and in two miles further we encamped; the distance we had travelled since starting was considerably over twenty miles, but I only made good twelve in a straight line from last camp.
Sunday, 1st September. - Last night was bright and cool, but the thermometer did not descend lower than 34°. This being Sunday I made it a day of rest, at least for the horses. I was myself compelled to make an excursion into the hills to endeavour to discover when and where this interminable glen would cease, for with all its grandeur, picturesqueness, and variety of scenery, it was such a difficult road for the horses, and so stony, that I was getting heartily tired of it. [24]
I climbed some hills to the west of the camp, and passed over cliffs and precipices of red sandstone, and at length reached the summit of a pine-clad mountain considerably higher than any other near it. Its elevation was 1,000 feet above the level of the surrounding country. From here I obtained a view to all points of the compass except the west. From here I could descry mountains from the north-east round by north to the north-north-west, at which point a very high and pointed mountain showed its top above the surrounding hills in its neighbourhood; it appeared fifty miles away. To the north and east of north a massive chain, with many dome-shaped summits, were visible: below me towards the camp I could distinguish the channel of the creek where it forced its way under the perpendicular sides of the hills, and at a spot not far above the camp it seemed split into two, or rather I should say it was joined by another creek from the north or little west of north. From the junction the course of the main creek turned more directly to the west. At about ten miles along the course of the tributary I could see an open piece of country, and I thought I discovered with the glasses a sheet of water not far from the foot of the hills, but it was too indistinct to be sure. I was glad to find a break at last in this chain, though it was not on the line I should travel; still I hoped a few more miles would bring me out on the main creek also, the course of which I could not distinguish for more than a mile, and that mile was west from the junction. Having expended several hours in my rambles I returned to camp to impart to my companions the result of my observations.
Monday, 2nd September. - Last night was slightly cloudy and warm, the thermometer not falling lower than to 60°. There was a heaviness in the atmosphere that felt like approaching rain. We started early and proceeded down the glen, still following its mazy windings.
In less than two miles we passed the junction of the northern tributary I had noticed yesterday, and continued on over rocks, under precipices, crossing and recrossing the creek, turning and winding to all points of the compass. [25] One bend may perhaps run west for half a mile, the next turn will perhaps be south, and so on, so that nearly three miles has to be travelled to make one good. Today we passed several clumps of the beautiful palm trees, growing mostly in the bed of the creek, which helped considerably to enliven the scenery. I collected also today, and during the other days we have been in this glen, a number of the most beautiful flowers, which grow in profusion in this otherwise desolate glen. I was literally surrounded by fair flowers of many a changing hue. Why Nature should scatter such floral gems in such a stony sterile region is difficult to understand, but such a variety of lovely flowers of every colour and perfume I have never met with previously. They alone would have induced me to name this Glen Flora, but, having found in it also so many of the stately palm trees, I have called it the Glen of Palms. While we were travelling a few slight showers fell upon us, giving us warning that heavier falls might be expected. I was most anxious to reach the mouth of the glen if possible by night, so heartily tired was I of such a continuously serpentine track. I therefore kept pushing on. We encountered several natives today, but they invariably fled into the fastnesses of their mountain homes. They raised great volumes of smoke, however, and their vociferations only ceased when we got out of earshot. The pattering of the raindrops became heavier; yet I kept on, hoping on every turn to see an opening which would form the end, or rather the beginning, of this glen; but night and rain descended upon us, and I was compelled to encamp another night in this valley.
I found a small, sloping, sandy and firm piece of ground a little off from the creek, having some bloodwood trees growing upon it, and above the reach of any flood mark. One can never be too careful in selecting a site for a camp on a watercourse, for in one night a flood might come and wash everything to destruction. I was very fortunate in finding so favourable a spot, as there was sufficient ground for the horses to feed upon, and some good feed upon it also. [26] By the time we had our rents erected and everything snug the rain fell in earnest; but we were warm and comfortable, and fell asleep in peace and tranquillity, thanking Providence we were much better off than many of our fellow creatures in the midst of civilization. The tributary, whose junction we passed this morning, I have named Ellery's Creek, after our well-known and esteemed astronomer, Dr Ellery; and the glen through which it meanders into the Finke I have named after another scientific and well-known gentleman, Mr Todd, the pushing Superintendent of the South Australian Telegraph Department. The actual distance travelled today in a straight line was eighteen miles, to accomplish which we travelled from morning until night.
Tuesday, 3rd September. - The rain continued at intervals all night, but the showers were slight, and no great quantity of water fell. In the morning the sky was clear towards the south, but to the north dense clouds covered the hills, and the weather was too broken to allow of our travelling today. I took another ramble into the hills, to the east of the camp, and upon reaching the first rise I saw what I was most anxious to see, viz., the end of the glen. It appeared the glen continued for only another mile or two, and the creek then came winding away from the north-west; dense volumes of clouds and mist obscured the view to the north, and it appeared evident that more rain had fallen there, or probably was now falling, than had descended upon us. At midday the whole sky became overcast, and more rain fell; up to night it fell in slight showers, but when night had fairly set in it fell heavier.
Wednesday, 4th September. - Rain fell throughout the whole night, but the showers being light no great quantity of water had as yet fallen; an hour after daylight, however, it came down in more volume, which continued for several hours. At twelve o'clock it held up a bit, and I took the opportunity to plant some seeds of various plants and vegetables given me specially by the Baron von Mueller. Amongst them were some blue gum, indian grain, white maize, prairie grass, sorghum, rye grass, etc. etc., also some wattle seeds, which I soaked, according to instructions, before planting. [27] The rain lasted about thirty-six hours, and altogether nearly three-quarters of an inch fell. Towards evening the sky became clear, and the night was dry though occasionally cloudy.
Thursday, 5th September. - It was with great pleasure this morning that we saw the rain had ceased, and that we should be able to get out of the glen at last.
In about two miles after starting we debouched upon the plain that ended at the foot of this chain of mountains, which I conceive to be the western portion of the two lines of ranges converging into one, named by Stuart the James and Waterhouse Range. The horses appeared especially pleased to be upon soft ground again. The length of this glen is considerable, as it occupies 31' of latitude, which is equal to nearly forty English miles; the main bearing of the glen is nearly N 25° W; it is without doubt the longest glen I ever traversed, and it appears to be the only pass through this range. I have called this mass of hills the Krichauff Range, after Fred Krichauff, Esq., of Adelaide, an old university friend of Baron Mueller. Now that we were fairly out on the open country I found we had a higher and more imposing chain of mountains immediately to the north of us, and that the extent of country between the two lines of ranges was not much more than about twenty miles, if that, though some of the foothills of the northern chain came much nearer to us. The northern chain is the western portion of the MacDonnell Range of Stuart; the creek is broader than when in the glen, its bed is stony however still. I fancied I noticed the junction of another from the northwards. The country now was pretty level, sandy, and thinly timbered; nearly all the bushes had been burnt by grass fires, set alight by the natives, which appears a perfect custom of theirs. We travelled upon the right bank of the creek, and cut off the bends, which, however, were by no means so extensive or so serpentine as they were on the south side of the glen, or in the glen itself. [28] We met very little spinifex for a great part of the day's stage, as we mostly kept near the creek, but there was abundance of it not far off. The creek took us to the foothills of the big mountains to the northwards of us, and we camped about a mile below a gorge through which it issues.
Our course today was nearly north-north-west, and we travelled seventeen miles. As we neared the hills we became sensible that the late rains were beginning to rise the waters of the creek, the sound of it rushing over its stony bed lulled us to repose. We shot a few ducks today - six in all; they are very fat and good eating. At about six miles before we camped we crossed the channel of a tributary joining the Finke at right angles from the west. There are also some ranges out in that direction, from whence, probably, the creek takes its source; the rains have caused a slight flood to take place in it. My next anxiety is to discover how and where this creek goes next, or if its sources are to be found in this chain of mountains. The day delightfully fine and cool, and the sky clear. The country is rather soft after the rains.
Friday, 6th September. - Last night was cold and breezy; the thermometer went down by daylight to 30°. I found my position here to be in latitude 23° 40', longitude 132° 31'; the variation I previously found was 3° east. I did not move the camp today, but took a ramble into the hills to discover the best route to travel upon next. I have reached the foot of a range of mountains whose eastern portions Stuart called the MacDonnell Range; and at this part of them they are formed of three separate lines of hills, all running E-and-W. The most northern of the three are the highest, and indeed are of considerable elevation, being 2,000 feet above the level of the surrounding country, and according to my barometrical admeasurements I found that at Charlotte Waters I was 900 feet above the sea; from that point up the Finke to the foot of the MacDonnell Range, I found the country rose over 1,000 feet, so the highest points of that range are over 4,000 feet above the sea level. [29] As I said before, the most northern line is the highest; the other two lines of hills may be called only foothills to the higher chain; the most southern and lowest is formed of sandstone, the middle tier is of basalt, and I believe the main chain is of basalt also.
After leaving the camp I climbed for several hours over masses of hills, but always found one just a little further on that shut out the view. At length I reached the summit of a high round mountain in the middle tier, and a most varied and splendid panorama was spread out before me. To the north was the main chain, composed for the most part of individual high mounts, with lower ridges between them; there was a valley, however, between the hills I was on and the main tier, and meandering along through this valley from the west I could trace by its timber the course of the Finke, for some few miles. To the east a mass of high and jumbled mounts appeared, and one bluff-faced mount was more conspicuous than the test. It is probably the Paisley's Bluff of Stuart. Nearer to me, and nearly under my feet, was the gorge through which the creek passes, and it appears to be the only pass through the chain. I approached the gorge, and from the top of a cliff I found that the late rains had so flooded the creek that the whole pass was filled with a roaring torrent, and that it would be impossible to get the horses up through it at present, and that the hills which enclosed it were equally impracticable, for it would be next to impossible to get horses over them. The view to the west was gratifying, for the ranges appeared to run on in undiminished height in that direction or a little north of it, and it appeared to me the creek must run along this valley for some distance, if it does not take its rise amongst these hills. From the face of some of the hills I climbed over today I saw several springs of pure water running, but if caused by the late rains or permanent, I could not decide. One hill which I passed over I found to be composed of what is called puddingstone, that is to say, a conglomeration of all kinds of stones, mostly rounded and mixed up in one mass, and formed by the smothered bubblings of some ancient and ocean-quenched volcano. [30] The surface of the places I now more particularly mention have been worn smooth by the action of the passage of water, so that it presented the appearance of an enormous tessellated pavement, before which the celebrated one at Bognor, in Sussex, which I remember seeing when a boy, when on a visit to Goodwood, though more artistically but not more fantastically arranged, would be compelled to hide its diminished head. I noticed a great quantity of flowers upon the hills in the course of my walk, but as I had collected specimens of the same in the Glen of Palms, and no new ones appearing among them, I did not gather any today. I saw also two kangaroos and one rock wallaby. By the time I reached camp it was nearly sundown, and I felt quite disposed for retiring early to rest. [31]

SATURDAY, 7th September. - I had come to the conclusion in my own mind that, as it was impossible to follow the creek through the gorge in consequence of the flood, and that the hills were impracticable, to fall back upon the tributary I had noticed the day before yesterday, as joining the Finke from the west, thinking I might in the course of twenty or thirty miles find a gap in the northern range which would enable me to reach the Finke again. The night was very cold: the thermometer fell to 28° by daylight. The creek had risen still higher in the night, and it was impossible to attempt the gorge. I therefore turned away to west-south-west, in order to strike the tributary that joined the creek below the camp.
We passed over some rough stony ridges, covered with spinifex. We next met a thickly-bushed sandy country, and struck the creek in about ten miles. After travelling another mile along it I found it trended too much towards the south, as though it came from a different direction to that which I expected; so I camped at a place where another small dry channel joined it from the north - the new range lying west, that I spoke of before, and which I expected to be the source of this creek, being too far to reach in one day. There was little or no feed at this camp; not that there was no grass, such as it was - viz., old and dry: the horses will not look at that, having generally had green sow thistles all along the Finke, where they grew in the lateral channels. This important western tributary of the River Finke, skirting the south base of the western portion of MacDonnell Range, has received the name Rudall's Creek, in honour of an eminent surgeon and promoter of science in the Victorian metropolis, and a friend of Baron Mueller. [32]
Sunday, 8th September. - The night was cold and very dewy, making all the packs and blankets wet and clammy. The thermometer fell to 30°; but instantly upon the sun's appearance it went up enormously. In consequence of the poor feed here, the horses rambled, and we made but a late start.
I proceeded on a nearly west course direct for the range I said lay in that direction. It appeared isolated and of some elevation. I bore for the centre of it. It appeared six or seven miles long, running north-and-south. It seemed about fifteen miles distant. We passed along the bank of the little creek which joins this one for a mile or two. We then entered a mulga-timbered country, which ended in a stony ridge of mallee and spinifex, which was so dense that it was with great difficulty we forced our way into it. It was fortunately only about three miles through, and it ended by forming the eastern bank of the creek we had camped on, and which we now met at right angles. The bed here was stony; the slight flood had nearly ceased running, but there were several small pools full where we met it. We watered the horses and proceeded, having travelled ten miles. The day was one of the warmest we had yet felt, and pushing through the scrubs had made both men and horses thirsty. The creek here was trending nearly north-and-south, and it seemed it did nor come from the range we were making for; but I thought it only reasonable to suppose that water would be obtained there so soon after rain. The country after crossing the creek consisted of open high sandhills covered with spinifex; and here I noticed, for the first time in several hundreds of miles that I had travelled to this point, a quantity of the grass-tree (Xanthorrhoea) dotting the landscape. They were of all heights, from two to twelve feet. We reached the foot of the range in six miles from the creek. The country round its base is not devoid of a certain kind of wild beauty. A few bloodwood trees, with their brilliant green foliage, enlivened the scene; and, as I noticed a small gum creek issuing from an opening in the range, I rode up the glen in search of water; but, though I went three or four miles, I was perfectly unsuccessful, as not a drop of the life-sustaining fluid was to be found. [33] On returning to impart this pleasing intelligence to the others, I stumbled upon a small quantity in a depression on a broad sandstone rock that lay in the bed of the creek. Altogether there was about two quarts. It was too late to return to the creek; and, as the horses had so recently watered, it would nor hurt them to go without for one night, especially as there was a quantity of fine green vetch or small pea, which they devour eagerly.
After supper, which, with so small a quantity of water, might be justly termed a frugal meal, I ascended a small eminence near the camp, to the north, and with the glasses I could distinguish the creek we had last left about three or four miles off, now running east-and-west. I also saw water gleaming in its channel; and more easterly, at the spot where the little creek we were camped upon joined the other, there was also water, but it was equally far away. As the horses were feeding that way, and had already got a mile towards it, I made sure they would follow down the creek and water themselves; but it is very strange, when one wants horses to do a certain thing or feed a certain way, they are almost sure to disappoint one, and so it was in the present case. On returning to camp by a circuitous route, I was fortunate enough to discover in a small rock reservoir an additional supply of water for our own requirements, there being in this last reservoir the enormous quantity of nearly a bucketful. However, it was sufficient for us, and felicity reigned in the camp.
This range is composed entirely of red and white sandstone. A few-pines are rooted in the rocky, shelving sides of the hills. It is not of such elevation as it appeared from a distance, the highest points being not more than 700 or 800 feet. I collected some botanical specimens of the plants, bushes, and flowers, which, however, are not peculiar to this range alone. I named this Gosse's Range, after Mr Harry Gosse, who had been out from the Alice Springs Telegraph Station; but where his travels took him to I did not hear. [34] It seemed that the late rains had not visited this isolated mass. Iris barren, and covered with spinifex from turret to basement, wherever the stones are not too thickly planted to prevent its growth.
Monday, 9th September. - The night, like the preceding one, was cold and dewy, and the thermometer fell to 30°. The horses, it seems, wandered quite in the wrong direction during the night, and it was eleven o'clock before we got away from camp.
We went away north for the sheet of water I had seen from the top of the little hill near the camp in the creek about three miles off to the north. Upon arrival we watered the horses and proceeded up the creek, as its course here appeared to be nearly from the west. The country along its banks was level, open, sandy, and covered with spinifex. I passed several grass-trees again today. At various distances several small tributaries joined the creek from the ranges to the north of us, but I saw no water in any of them. We found water in the main creek all along its channel; but I do not think we should have been so fortunate had it not been for the late rains. Our course today was nearly west-by-north, and the distance thirteen miles in a straight line. The weather was rather warm today, and I did not feel comfortable until I abandoned my coat. The lines of foothills of the northern range are still running parallel to our course, and they hide from our view the country in that direction.
Tuesday, 10th September. - Last night was considerably warmer than any we have experienced as yet, except perhaps the night of Sunday the 1st. The thermometer fell no lower than to 50°.
We made an early start this morning, and continued along the creek we had been following for the last two days. At four miles I found it turned up to the north-west, then to the north, and it became confined on both sides by stony mallee hills, forming a small glen. I continued up the glen for two or three miles, thinking it might open out; but such was not the case, and I was compelled to leave it, and ascend the mallee hills upon its western bank. [35] The hills from whence the creek issues were not many miles away to the north, and the country between us and them was all malice stony hills. I now travelled about west-north-west over malice hills of the most wretched and frightfully barren description. The scrub was very thick, and we had very difficult work to keep the horses in a body at all, as they each endeavoured to find an easy path for themselves. This continued for several miles until we reached one ridge higher than the rest, and which I found to be the highest the horses had ever passed over since leaving the Charlotte. From here, with the glasses, I fancied I saw the timber of a creek in a valley to the north-west; at all events, I could see the country was not stony malice, so I made off in that direction, and soon came upon the channel of a small gum creek, which was the first I had met whose waters flow towards the west - not that there was any water when I saw it, but the flood-drifts against the timber on its banks indicated the direction of its fall. I followed the creek down, hoping to meet with water; but it ran into another and rather larger one, in the bed of which, after following it for a mile or two, I found a small pool. The water had evidently lain there many months, as it was half slime and drying up fast; it was evident the late rains had not fallen here.
We were travelling for a long time today, and made a stage of nineteen miles; and our course was a little west of north-west, though we made traverses upon nearly all the northern points of the compass during the day. The weather was quite warm enough, and when we encamped we felt the benefit of what shade the creek timber could afford. There was good feed here for the horses - some of the small vetch or pea they are so fond of. The grass is useless, being old, long, and withered. Today, in the glens formed by the creek we encamped upon yesterday, I saw a single quondong tree in full bearing, but the fruit not yet ripe. I also saw a pretty drooping kind of acacia tree, whose leaves hang in small bunches together, giving it an elegant and pendulous appearance. It grows to some height; two or three I saw must have been forty or fifty feet, and over a foot through. [36] The flies today were exceedingly troublesome. I have not seen much game lately, with the exception of a few emus. I noticed one native orange tree (Capparis) of a very poor and stunted habit.
Wednesday, 11th September. - The night was again remarkably warm, and the thermometer fell only to 52°. My latitude last night I found to be in 23° 29' S, which placed us almost under the tropic line.
The horses having remained within sight of the camp all night, I made an early start this morning, intending to follow this new creek, which received the name of my companion, Mr Carmichael, and I hoped it would take me some considerable distance on my road to the west. It soon appeared its course was considerably to the south of west. However, I followed it for several miles, when it turned up again to the north-west. The main line of mountains we had still upon our right, or north of us: and to the south of us another line of lower hills trended up in a north-westerly direction towards them, and towards the west or west-north-west there seems a kind of gap between the two lines of ranges about twenty-five miles off, and I hope this creek will carry us that far. The country along the banks of the creek was open and sandy, with plenty of old grass and not much spinifex, but to the south malice and spinifex seemed to approach very near. I saw several small ponds in the creek as we passed along, but none of any size. Where the creek turned up to the north-west the malice upon the south bank gradually encroached, and at length formed its southern bank. I had only followed it seven or eight miles when I found it showed signs of falling off, and split into several channels, and eventually ran out on an open swamp or plain. Another small creek from the north joined before this finally exhausted itself, and they both ended on the plain, and there was no water to be got in either channel. The little plain looked green and most agreeable. I found some rainwater in claypans upon it; and, as the feed was so excellent, I encamped upon it. [37]
There were numerous kangaroos and emus on the plain when I arrived, but they did not remain in our company long. I noticed in the malice on the south bank of the creek today a tree I had not before seen; its bark was dark like mulga, but its leaves were like the curragong. I brought some away with me. My course today was nearly west, though I travelled south-west, north-west, and north to reach the spot where I encamped, distance fourteen miles.
Thursday, 12th September. - I remained at this camp today for the benefit of the horses, as the grass was excellent; indeed this is the most agreeable and fertile little spot I have met for some time. It consists of a small plain, bounded upon the north by the most peculiar-looking mountains. It is also fringed with scrub nearly all round. The appearance of the northern mountains is most singular and grotesque, and very difficult to describe. There appears to be still three distinct lines, one of which ends in a bluff to the east-north-east of the camp; another line ends likewise in a bluff to the north-north-east, named Haast's Bluff, after Dr Haast, geologist, Canterbury, New Zealand, an old alpine explorer; the third continues along the northern horizon. One higher point than the rest in that line bears N 26° W from camp. The middle line of hills is the most strange looking. It recedes in the distance eastwards in almost regular steps or notches, each step or notch being a bluff itself, and all overlooking a valley. The bluffs all have a circular curve, are all coloured red, and, looking at them in perspective, appear like a gigantic flat stairway, only that they have an oblique tendency to the southward, caused, I presume, by the wash of the ocean currents that at perhaps no greatly-distant geological period must have swept over them. My eyes, however, were mostly bent upon the high peak in the northern line, and Mr Carmichael and I decided to walk over to ascend it. We started at two o'clock, and though it was apparently not more than seven or eight miles off, it was nearly midnight before we again reached the camp. [38]
As the reader is aware, I left the Finke issuing through an impracticable (at the time) gorge in these same mountains, now some seventy-five miles behind me, and during that distance not a break had occurred in the lines of mountains whereby I could either get over or through them, and thus meet that stream again; indeed, at this distance it was doubtful if it were worthwhile to endeavour to do so, as one can never tell what change may take place in the course of a creek in that distance. The last time I saw it, it was trending along a valley under the foot of the highest tier of hills, and coming from the west, but whether its sources are in those hills or it extends still west and a little to the north of me, that is to say on the other side of the chain of hills to the north of me, is the question I hope to solve by ascending the high point I have said lays about seven or eight miles off. I am the more anxious to reach the Finke (if it is still in this region), as on the route I have been travelling water has been by no means too plentiful, and I believe that a better country altogether exists upon the other side of these mountains.
At starting for the mountain Mr Carmichael and I passed over at first the plain upon whose southern edge we were encamped. It was beautifully grassed, having good soil upon it, and it would make a fine (bush) racecourse, or be an excellent spot for hunting kangaroos and emus, of which we saw a great number. In about three miles the plain ended in a thick, indeed very dense, mulga scrub, which continued to the foot of the hills. The grass was long, dry, and tangled, with dead and burnt sticks and timber, and it was exceedingly troublesome to walk through it. Upon reaching the hills I found the natives had recently burnt all the vegetation from their sides, leaving the stones, of which it is composed, perfectly bare. It was a long distance to the top of this first ridge, but the incline was easy, and I was in great hopes if it continued like this to be able to get the horses up over the mountains at this spot; but upon arriving at the top of this hill I was soon undeceived upon that score, for the high mountain for which we were steering we found completely separated from us by a yawning chasm, which lay under an almost sheer precipice at our feet. [39] The higher mountain beyond was girt around by a solid wall of basalt of fifty or sixty feet in height, from the top of which the summit rose. It was quite unapproachable, except in one place round to the northwards of it. The solid rock, of which it had formerly been composed, had by some mighty effort of Nature been split into innumerable fissures and fragments, both perpendicularly and horizontally, and was almost mathematically divided into pieces or squares, simply placed one upon another like mason work without mortar; the lower strata of the hill being large, the upper ones tapering to pieces not much larger than a brick. The whole appearance of this singular mountain was grand and awful, and I could not but reflect upon the time when these colossal ridges were all at once rocking in the convulsive tremblings of a mighty volcanic shock which shivered them into the fragments I now beheld.
I said the hill we had ascended abruptly ended in a precipice. By going further round to our left we found a spot which was practicable but difficult enough to descend. At the bottom of some of the ravines below I could see several small pools of water gleaming in little stony gullies. The afternoon had been warm, not to say hot, and our walk and climbing exertions had made us thirsty, and the sight of water made us all the more so. It was now nearly sundown, and it would be useless to attempt to ascend the high mountain, as by the time we could reach its summit the sun would be far below the horizon, and we should obtain no view after all. It was, however, evident that no gap or pass existed by which I could get my horses up, even if the country beyond were never so promising. A few pine trees dotted the summits of the hills, and they also grew on the sides of some of the ravines. We had, at least I had, considerable difficulty in descending the almost perpendicular face of the bill to the water we saw below. When I reached it Mr Carmichael had had time to lave his feet and legs in a fine little rockhole full of pure water, filled I suppose by the late rains. [40] The water, indeed, had not yet ceased to run, for it was trickling from hole to hole. Upon Mr C. inquiring what delayed me so long, I replied, 'Ah, it is all very easy for you, you have two circumstances in your favour - you are young, and therefore able to climb; and besides you are in the tropic. To which he very naturally replies, If I am in the tropic, you must be also'. I benignly answer, No, you are in the tropic clime of youth'.
No view of any kind except along the mountains for a mile or two east-and-west could be obtained. I was greatly disappointed at having such a terrible walk for nothing. We returned by a more circuitous route, down a small water channel; we soon, however, had to take to the scrub. We eventually reached the camp at nearly twelve, thoroughly tired out with our walk. I have since named the high mountain, which I did not reach, Mount Musgrave, after His Excellency the new Governor of South Australia. It is of considerable elevation, being 1,600 feet above the level of the surrounding country, and over 3,000 above the sea.
Friday, 13th September. - Having many small matters to attend to in camp, I remained here another day. The thermometer fell only to 50° last night. This morning there was a very cold breeze, which we all felt keenly, probably because the last few days have been so warm. The sky all day has been overcast, and there is a feeling like approaching rain in the atmosphere. There were several emus and kangaroos near this camp, and there were a few other birds, such as crows and hawks, quail and bronze-winged pigeons. Mr Carmichael went out today to shoot a kangaroo, but it appeared he was unsuccessful.
Saturday, 14th September. - The thermometer at daylight was rather high, standing at 55°, warning us of the approach of a warm day; the flies were soon very busy at our eyes, and soon after sunrise it became hot. We got away early from camp, and proceeded across the little plain in the direction of another high bluff-faced mountain, which loomed over the surrounding country - to the west-north-west. [41] In three miles we had traversed the plain and entered a mulga scrub, which had been recently burnt by the natives - the further we proceeded through this the worse it got. At seven miles we came upon mallee, stones, and spinifex - the mallee we found so dense that not a third of the horses could be seen together, and it was with the greatest difficulty we managed to get through it to the foot of a small pine-clad hill, lying under the foot of the high bluff before mentioned. There was a small gum creek which comes down from the high mountains, and runs under the little pine-clad hill; we only travelled twelve miles, but that distance through such a scrub took many hours. We passed three other small creeks before we reached the pine hill; they all run south-west, and form a larger one, which I could see from the top of the pine hill, about two or three miles off. Mr Carmichael went up this little creek and found a small rocky waterhole, with barely sufficient water for our use. Here I encamped, as it was very acceptable, the day had been disagreeably warm, and working in the scrub had made both men and horses thirsty.
I left Mr Carmichael and Robinson to unpack the horses, and rode over to the creek I had seen to the south - I found two small puddles in its bed, but not sufficient for the requirements of my horses - there was, however, plenty to be got by digging, as the bed of the creek was damp and wet, and by scratching with my hands I soon got some. The camp was fixed in a wretched place - in the midst of thick malice and thick plots of spinifex, which we had to cut away before we could sit down. We could not see a yard ahead of us in any direction, except that of the sky, where the big bluff was observable. I was sorry to find that the horses had been let go without hobbles, and as they had been in such fine quarters for three nights at the last camp, it was more than probable they would make back through the scrub to it, and on the morning of
Sunday, 15th September, not a horse was to be found. The night was sultry, and the thermometer did not descend lower than 60°. [42] Robinson and I went in search of them, we found they had split up into several mobs. I found three in one lot, and at night Robinson returned with only six more; the remainder had been missed in the dense scrub.
The day was exceedingly warm, the thermometer stood at 95° in the shade, and there was also a warm wind blowing. Robinson and I started on foot, and as he had to go back to the last camp before he found his mob, and then drive them through that wretched scrub by himself, he had a Line day's work of it. I got my three much closer at hand, and after returning to camp in the afternoon I attempted the high bluff immediately overlooking the camp. I had a great deal of cliff climbing, and reached the summit of one mountain of considerable elevation, it being 1,300 feet, and then found that a vast chasm or ravine separated me from the main mountain chain; it being near sundown when I reached the summit of the one I was on, and as it would have taken me two or three hours to get up to the summit of the highest, it would be too dark to get any view, therefore I did not attempt it; it was of great height, as it towered above the hill I was upon, and was 500 or 600 feet higher than it. By the time I reached the camp Robinson had but just returned. I collected a few botanical specimens at this camp for my generous patron Baron von Mueller. The mountain I ascended and the higher bluff were composed of basalt - very little timber existed upon them, but they were clothed with spinifex to their summits; several beautiful flowers grew upon them which I collected.
Monday, 16th September. - The night was again sultry and cloudy, the thermometer not falling below 60°; it rose rapidly with the sun, and it was evident that we were to have another hot day.
Robinson and I went again on horseback after the missing horses. We had to return through the scrub to our old camp upon the plain, and then we found them all with the exception of one, which was still absent; by the time we returned with them to camp it was evening again. [43] The weather having been very hot, the thermometer in the shade at the camp had stood at 96°. Not hobbling my horses in general - we had some difficulty in raising a pair for each horse - and not being able to do so, I left one in the mob without, and the consequence was the ungrateful reptile crept away by himself.
Tuesday, 17th September. - The night was again exceedingly sultry; the thermometer stood at 62° at daylight. As this camp was the most wretched hole it was possible for any white man to have got into, being in the midst of dense mallee and spinifex and stones, I determined to escape from it before attempting to look for the two still-missing horses; and as there was the other creek two or three miles away which the one we were on emptied into, I packed up and went to it, three miles S-W. In fact the water at the camp was completely done, as there was only a small quantity when we first camped at it, and on that account alone I should have been compelled to leave it. I camped upon the new creek at the little holes I had seen before, but the surface water had almost disappeared. We therefore had to dig out the sand, and by that means we obtained a sufficiency by a great deal of labour.
In the afternoon Robinson and I again went to look after the two missing horses. We followed up this creek and found some water in it three miles above the camp; presently we found the tracks of one horse, and found he had been about there for a day or two, as the tracks were old. We made a sweep out round some hills and found the tracks again, much fresher. Eventually we found the little horse, feeding by himself, six or seven miles up the creek, above the camp. It was too late then to go further to look for the other horse, so we returned to camp. The day was again very hot, the thermometer at the camp having gone up to 96°. The sky was very much overcast, and rain appeared imminent.
Wednesday, 18th September. - In the course of the night some drops of rain fell; it was cloudy and close, and the thermometer at daylight stood at 61°. [44] I sent Robinson away back to our old camp upon the little plain, feeling pretty sure that as the missing horse had returned there once he would do so again; and as he had had plenty of time to get through the scub I thought it probable Robinson would have only to ride there to get him. There was a hot wind blowing today from the N-W. The sand was flying about in all directions, and it was a most uncomfortable and disagreeable day; the thermometer indicated 96° in the shade, and I was only too glad when night approached as the wind seemed inclined to lull. Robinson returned in the evening, having been successful in finding the horse at the old feeding ground, and I took special care to find a pair of hobbles for him for this night at all events. The atmosphere was heavy and overloaded, and it seemed probable a fall of rain would occur, as the heat we had experienced for the past few days was quite unseasonable, the flies also were most insufferably pertinacious, not that they were so numerous, but I never met even amongst their congeners upon the Darling anything like such persistence, and I therefore consider the tropic fly of Australia the most abominable insect of its kind.
At this camp we were about five miles from the high bluff, and which was now to the east of north from us. From the top of the mount I ascended on Sunday I found the line (now called the Liebig Mountains, after Baron Justus von Liebig, from whose great chemical researches Australia has also already so much benefited) of mountains still ran on towards the west - they would not intercept the horizon at that point exactly, but they would so at west-by-north. The farthest range I could see from the hill appeared forty or forty-five miles distant, and they took a sweep or curve round in a northerly direction; the most distant one I saw appeared still high. I could not discover the conformation of the whole line on account of the curve which I said they took, and which some nearer high points intercepted. However, as I know they extend forty miles I shall still follow them in hopes of meeting some creek or other ranges that will carry me on towards the west. [45] It is a most remarkable fact that such high mountains, whose feet I have been travelling along, should send out no creek whose course extends longer than ten or twelve miles. The creek upon which lam now camped I could trace by its timber for a few miles; its course was at first nearly west, then it appeared to turn more to the south. The country in its immediate neighbourhood is open and timbered with fine oak trees; the grass is long and dry, and the spinifex approaches within a quarter of a mile of the banks. I have now reached the farthest or most western point of the line of hills we have had for some distance upon our left to the south of us. I named this line of hills Gardiner's Range, as Mr Carmichael desired me to do so after a friend of his. Though there is still one small isolated hill, the furthest outpost of the line, some three miles away to the south-west, the creek may probably take a bend down under it. This creek is rather well timbered, the gums look fresh and young, and there is some green herbage in places, though the surface water has all disappeared.
Thursday, 19th September. - The night was again close and warm. Rain seems imminent, but still it hangs off. The thermometer did not descend below 60°, and soon after sunrise a disagreeable feeling of oppression and mugginess was in the atmosphere. All the horses were found together this morning; but, in consequence of there being so little water at the camp, I had to send them to the little waterhole I had found three miles up the creek; therefore it was late by the time they were packed, after going there and back. I was not sorry to be moving again; for our stay at these last two camps had been compulsory, and the anxiety and trouble and work we had had here left no very agreeable reminiscences of the locality in my mind.
I followed along the creek all day, cutting off the bends: but though we travelled some thirteen or fourteen miles, I saw no signs of any water. As it was getting late, I decided to try if we could obtain some by digging. We set to work, and very soon got some wet sand, and we got water in about four feet; but the sand being so loose, we had to remove an enormous quantity to enable a horse to approach. 
[46] Some horses of course would not go near it, and had to be watered with a canvas bucket. The supply of water seemed good, but it only ran in from the sides. Depth was no object, as it did not appear to come from the bottom - which gave us all the more work, as, after every horse had drank, we had to dig afresh. The country was open today, and timbered with the fine oaks; spinifex reigned supreme, however, not half a mile away from the creek. The old grass had been burnt near this place, and good young green shoots appeared in its place, which was very good for the horses. The day was close and sultry, and the rain seemed to have departed entirely, though the sky was still clouded, especially towards the west.
Friday, 20th September. - The early part of the night was hot and cloudy, but it eventually became cooler; and towards morning a few heat drops fell. The thermometer stood at 55° at daylight, and I thought I saw flashes of lightning in the west; but as our fire was flickering in that direction I thought I must have been mistaken; but as I got up I heard the dull roll of distant thunder, which proved it had been lightning I had seen. While we were at breakfast a thunderstorm came up; but it passed immediately close to us on the south bank of the creek, only just sprinkling us. I thought it had entirely departed, so I decided to pack up and be off, hoping to find a better-watered region in the neighbourhood of the line of mountains I was now intending to visit. There was an extraordinary mount a little to the west of north from us; it looked something like a church at about twenty miles off. I called it Mount Peculiar. We had great trouble again in watering the horses; but eventually they were all satisfied, and we left the camp behind us at last, leaving the creek on our left to run itself out into some lonely flat or dismal swamp known only to Providence and the wretched creatures it has been its pleasure to people this desolate region with.
My course today was about N 67° W, over a sandhill country, rather open, covered with spinifex and timbered with oaks. [47] We had scarcely gone two miles when the thunderstorm returned, and the rain fell rather heavily. The country, however, was so sandy and porous that none remained upon the surface. I had no alternative but to travel on, hoping to find some spot where it might lodge. The rain continued to fall heavier and heavier; still we could not stop, for not a drop of water was to be had - the ground sucking it up as fast as it fell. We continued our voyage, and travelled on this course twenty-five miles, it raining hard nearly all the time. At that distance we came in sight of the mountains I was making for; but they were too distant yet to reach before night, so I turned up a little to the north to the foot of a low bare white-granite hill - hoping to find a creek or some ledges in the rocks where we might get some water; but none was to be found, so we had to camp without, although we had been travelling in the rain the whole day and accomplished thirty miles. There was good green feed here where the old grass had been burnt; and as it was still raining, the horses could not be very much in want of water. We fixed up our tent, and retired for the night, the wind blowing furiously - which of course might be expected, as it was the eve of the vernal equinox, and this, I suppose, our share of the equinoctial gales. It rained once or twice only in the night, but not very heavily. The last few miles we traversed was through a thick mulga scrub, which ran up to the foot of the hill near which we camped.
Saturday, 21st September. - This morning was dull and cloudy, and the thermometer was still rather high, standing at 55°. As there was no water here I was compelled to leave this camp, rain or no rain. Indeed, unless it descended in perfect sheets, the country would not hold it, being all pure red sand. The hill near us had no rocky ledges to catch water, so I made off for the higher mountains we were steering for yesterday; but now I determined to make for their nearest or most eastern point, which was not more than four miles off. I did not wait for the horses, but walked away immediately after breakfast with the shovel, thinking I might find some place where water might begot by digging, having pointed out a hill to Mr Carmichael to bring the horses to when packed. [48]
From the hill near the camp with the glasses I noticed a few gum trees apparently in a small channel issuing from the ranges I was approaching. I therefore made for it and followed it up to the rocky ledges from which it obtains its source, and down which, at times, no doubt, leaping torrents roar. Very little of the rain we had had fallen here, but I found most fortunately one small rock reservoir with just sufficient water for all my horses. There was none either above or below it in any other basin, and there were plenty of better-looking holes, but all dry. The water in this one must have stood for some time, yesterday's rain not having affected it in the least. Where I found the water was in a most difficult place for horses to reach; indeed, it was almost impracticable. After finding this opportune supply, I walked, or rather climbed, to the top of the mount on whose sides I had found the water. On the summit was a native fig tree in full bearing. The fruit was ripe and delicious; it is about the size of an ordinary marble - yellow when unripe, gradually becoming red, then black: it is very like the English medlar, only rather sweeter - is full of small seeds.
I was disturbed from my repast by seeing the horses, several hundred feet below me, going away in the wrong direction, so I had to descend before I had time to look around me; but the casual glance I obtained from the top of the hill gave me the most gloomy and desolate view imaginable, and almost enough to daunt the explorer from penetrating into such a dreadful region. To the eastwards I discovered that I had long outrun the old main chain of mountains, which had turned up to the north, or rather north-north-westward; between me and it a mass of jumbled and broken mounts appeared, each separate hill almost surrounded with scrubs, which came up to the foot of the hill I was upon. To the north the view was very similar - some isolated and some joined ranges appeared, but all having dense scrubs between them. [49] To the west the picture was the same - ranges loomed above the intervening scrubs. Those further to the west appeared a considerable distance away - probably fifty miles - and they also appeared of the greatest elevation. The country between was also filled in with ranges; the whole horizon looked dark and gloomy. I had to abandon my scrutiny of the country, however, and descend to the horses, as they were going away in the wrong direction. There appeared no creeks of any kind - the most extensive not running more than a mile from the hills it might issue from. Though there no doubt is an ample rainfall in this region, the water sinks into the earth as fast as it falls from the heavens.
Watering the horses proved a difficult and tedious task, as many of them would not approach the little basin in which the water lay; it therefore had to be carried to them in buckets. By the time they were all watered, and we had descended from the rocky gully, it was time to camp - the day having passed in a most miraculous manner. The horses, fortunately, did nor drink all the water; indeed, there was nearly sufficient to give them another drink. The feed was very good here, as there was a little flat that had been burnt, and it was covered with yellow flowers, which the horses like.
Sunday, 22nd September. - The night set in very cool, clear, and calm. I was enabled to take a meridian altitude of Vega, which placed me in latitude 23° 15' 12" S. We were distant now from the last water in the creek nearly thirty-five miles. The mercury in the thermometer fell as low as 28° by daylight this morning, being much colder than we had experienced for some time; there was also a slight frost. I determined to rest the horses here today, and let them drink up what water was left in the rocks, whilst I went away to inspect some other gorges or gullies in the hills to the west of us, to see if any more water was to be found. The day was most agreeably cool and fine, and I set out in great expectation of finding a fresh supply. [50] 
I climbed to the summit of one of the highest hills in the range. I found it was 800 feet from the base. The view obtained from its summit was nearly similar to that mentioned yesterday, only I could see rather more of the horizon towards the west. It appeared that the ranges I was now on ran on for about twelve or fourteen miles, then a lot of low jumbled ridges were visible above the scrubs, and the farthest range to the west, or rather west-north-west, appeared rather more inviting than before, but the intervening country was a mass of dense scrub; a few low ridges also appeared here and there to the south, and an odd flat-topped tent-shaped hill showed about N 30° W, some twenty-five or thirty miles away. No sign of any creek appeared to issue from any of those hills, except indeed little gullies, having an odd gum tree here and there in them, and their course seldom reached a greater length than one mile before they were swallowed up in the scrubs - most of their little channels were not more than six feet wide, and the trumpery little streams that descend from them in their most flooded state would be of little service to anybody. I had travelled over hills and through gullies, and up mountains all the morning, yet I had not met with a single drop of water, and was returning disappointed to camp, when, on pushing up another small scrubby, dreadfully rocky little gully, which I had missed in going out, I was at last fortunate enough to find a few small rocky holes, full of the purest fluid; but what pleased me most was the rather strange fact that the water was running from the one into the other, but the stream was so weak that I should more properly call it trickling. Above and below where I found the water, the gully and rocks were as dry as the desert around. Had the water not been running, and thus the supply kept up, half my horses would have emptied all the holes at a draught. The approaches to the water were even more rough and impracticable than those near the camp. I was, however, most delighted to have found it, otherwise I must have retreated to the last creek. Having, however, found this supply, I determined not to touch upon it so long as I had a drink at the camp for the horses; and in the hills farther west I intended to travel to, I hoped to get more, so I kept this small supply as a reserve to fall back upon should I be unfortunate in obtaining more further on. [51]
When I returned to camp I got all the horses together and took them up the rocks, and by the time they had all drank - some from canvas buckets, and some from the hole - there was not a drop left in the whole gully. It was therefore imperative upon me to be off, as this supply was gone.
Monday, 23rd September. - The night was again cool and clear, and the thermometer stood at 30°. A heavy dew fell, but no frost appeared. The horses wandered a bit it appears in the night, and it was late in the day when we got away from the camp.
I proceeded along the foot of the ranges, which here ran nearly W-N-W. Close to their foot the country is all stones, but open, and thickly covered with enormous bunches of spinifex, which by this time the horses dread like a pestilence; I have encountered nothing but spinifex for more than 200 miles. All round the coronets of most of the horses, in consequence of being so continually punctured with the spines of this vegetable, it has caused a swelling, or tough enlargement of the flesh and skin, giving them the appearance of having ring-bones, many of them having the flesh quite raw and bleeding; they are also very tender footed, from traversing so much stony ground as we have had to pass over. Bordering upon the open spinifex ground, to the south of us, is the scrub, composed chiefly of mulga, though there are various other shrubs and bushes growing amongst it; it is so thick that we cannot see one-third of the horses at once - they, of course, continually endeavour to make for it, to avoid the stones and spinifex, for generally speaking the spinifex and mulga appear antagonistic plants; the ground, however, is usually soft in the scrubs, and on that account the horses also seek it. I have occasionally allowed them to travel in the scrub out of kindness to them, until some dire mishap forces us out again, for the scrubs are mostly so dense that the horses are compelled to crush through it, tearing the coverings off their loads, and occasionally - indeed frequently - forcing sticks in between their backs or sides and their saddles; then we hear a frantic crashing through the scrub, and the sound of the pounding of horse hoofs being the first notice we receive that some frightful calamity has occurred; then, as soon as we can get through it ourselves, and round up the horses, we find one missing, whose tracks have to be found; then portions of the load are picked up here and there, and perhaps in the course of an hour the horse is again found and repacked, and we push on again. [52] Sometimes it is varied by there being two horses that have disencumbered themselves instead of one; when those accidents occur we push out again immediately for the open though stony ground, for there, at least, we can see what is going on. These scrubs are really dreadful, and one's skin and clothes get torn and ripped in all directions.
After these mishaps, one of which occurred upon this day's travels, I continued on and travelled ten miles, to the foot of a hill I had been steering for. There were numerous gullies or miniature creeks coming from the hills. A few pine trees were scattered here and there upon them, the hills themselves having a glistening, sheening, laminated appearance, caused by the vast quantities of mica which abound in them, their sides being furrowed and corrugated, and the upper portions of them almost bare rock. I made a search for water amongst the gullies, and expended some time in doing so, but was quite unsuccessful, Another range of the same kind lay three or four miles further on, apparently higher, and therefore, I supposed, more likely to have water near it. We therefore went over to it, and halted the horses while Mr Carmichael and I ascended to the summit of the highest, which I found was 900 feet above the level of the surrounding country. We had already searched all round its base for water and found none.
The view from the summit was such as I have described before - that is to say, an ocean of scrubs with ranges appearing above in most directions. [53] It gave, however, no hopes of any water. The horses had already been twenty-four hours without any. I saw that it was useless to push further with all the packhorses through the vile scrubs which intervened between this and the ranges further to the west-north-west. One point of the ranges in that direction was high and pointed, and I decided before abandoning this line of march to visit it; but I must first find a place to leave the main body of the horses under the care of my companions. The ranges in question seemed twenty-five or thirty miles away. No watercourse was visible in any direction, except, indeed, the little runnels that come down from all the hills here and there, and which, as I have before remarked, scarcely run a mile before they become lost in the scrubs. To the south the country seemed to have been more recently visited by the natives than any other part, as burnt patches could be distinguished as far as the vision could be carried; and in the far distance, over the top of some low ridges (probably forty miles away), we saw the ascending smoke of grass fires still attended to by the natives. I had no alternative but to retreat upon the small supply of water I had left behind me as a reserve, so I turned the horses' heads again in that direction. This time we travelled upon the northern side of the hills we previously travelled south of, to make sure of not missing any creek that might flow from them. We camped in an oak grove, where the old grass had been burnt and some young stuff was springing, but of course there was no water. We have been so short of that commodity for some days that the merest attempt at a wash has been out of the question.
Tuesday, 24th September. - A fine dewy night made me hope the horses would nor feel the want of water so much as to induce them to ramble; but somehow this appeared foredoomed to be an unlucky day in my calendar, for it really appeared as if everything must go wrong by a natural law. In the first place, while making a hobble peg, when Robinson was away after the horses, the little piece of wood slipped out of my hand, and the sharp blade of my knife went through the top and nail of my third finger and stuck in the head of my thumb. [54] They bled most profusely, and it took me until the horses came to sew my mutilated digits up. It was late when we retreated from camp.
As there was a hill with a prepossessing-looking gorge, I left Mr Carmichael and Robinson to bring the horses on, and went to see if I could possibly find water in it. I went some distance up through the stones and ridges; however there was none. I then made down to where the horses should have passed along, and found some of them standing in a small bit of open ground surrounded with dense scrubs, with nobody near them. I cooeyed and waited, and at last Mr Carmichael came up and told me that when he and Robinson with the horses debouched upon this little opening they found that two of the horses were missing, and that Robinson had gone to pick up their tracks. The horse carrying my papers and instruments was one, and I was very anxious on that account. Robinson soon returned, not having found the tracks. There was another mount we passed yesterday, two or three miles to the north of us, and I requested Mr Carmichael to go there and see if he could find water, while Robinson and I found the missing horses, and then we would bring them all on. So for fear any more should retreat into the scrub, we tied the horses up in two mobs to trees on the little plain. I tied one lot and Robinson the other, some little distance apart. We then separately made sweeps round, always returning to the packhorses the opposite side we started from. We then went again in company, and again on opposite sides singly, but no tracks or horses could be found. I was in a most undesirable state of mind, for five hours had elapsed since I first heard of their absence. I determined to take one more sweep out beyond any I had already taken, so as to include the spot we had camped at, which took me more than an hour; and when I returned I found Robinson had found the two horses in a small but dense bunch of scrub, not twenty yards from the trees he had tied his horses up to. [55] During my last absence he had gone on top of a small stony eminence close by, and from its summit had obtained a bird's-eye view of the scrub below, and thus perceived the two missing animals. On my return I was pleased enough to know that everything was alright, though such a length of time had been wasted, for nearly seven hours had been lost, during which I was riding my horse the whole time at a rather fast pace; it was getting quite late, and I was afraid we should be unable to reach the gully where the water was now before night, which would be an additional suffering for the horses. We at length pushed on, and Mr Carmichael joined us in the course of a few miles, he having been unsuccessful in finding any water. As it was getting dusk we reached the small creek up in the rocks, of which I had seen the water on Sunday.
At a certain point the creek split into two, or rather two channels joined and formed one, and I suppose it was by the same ill fate that had pursued me all day, that I mistook the proper channel, and we drove the unfortunate and limping horses up a wretched, rocky, vile, scrubby, almost impenetrable gully, where there was not a sup of water. On discovering my mistake (for even explorers are liable to these kinds of error), we had to turn them back over the same most horrible places - all rocks, scrub, and spinifex. At last I got them into the proper channel, not that it was any better than the other, indeed it was worse. When near the place where I had last seen the water, I dismounted and walked up to see how it had stood during my absence, and was horrified to discover that the lowest and largest hole was nearly dry. I bounded up the rocks to the next, and there by the blessing of Providence, there was still a sufficient quantity, as the slow trickling of the water from little basin to little basin had not yet entirely ceased, though its current had sadly diminished since my last visit, only some seventy hours since. By this time it was nearly dark, and totally impossible to get the horses up the gully, so we had to get them over a horrible ridge of broken and jumbled rocks, having to roll away huge boulders to make something like a road to enable the animals to approach the water. [56]
Time accomplishes all things, and in time the last animal's thirst was quenched, and the last drop of water was sucked up from every basin, and I was afraid it would not be replenished by morning. We had to encamp in the midst of a thicket of a kind of willow, with pink bark all in little curls, with a small and pretty leaf, it is of the most tenacious nature, you may bend it, but break it won't; we had to cut away sufficient to make an open square for us to lie down on, and then remove the great bunches of spinifex - then when the stones were cleared, we had something like a place for a camp, and by that time it was nearly midnight, and we retired all heartily tired with our day's work.
Wednesday, 25th September. - The night was again clear and delightfully cool, the thermometer at daylight standing at 38°.
My first thought this morning was to know how the water-holes looked, and to ascertain if the slight flow of water still continued, as if not, my intended trip to the mountains out westward would be prevented, as I should be compelled to retreat to the gum creek we got our last water at, which was nearly forty miles away. Mr Carmichael went up into the rocks to discover, and on his return reported that they had all been refilled in the night, and that the trickling flow of water continued but slightly less in volume. This was a great relief to my mind. I only trust it will last until I return from those dismal-looking mountains, and enable the packhorses to remain here in the meantime, I can expect no more.
It was necessary to try and discover some more water, if possible; so after breakfast I walked away, but after travelling up gullies and gorges, hills and valleys, I had to return quite unsuccessful, and I can only conclude that this water was permitted by a kind Providence to remain here in this lonely spot for my especial benefit, for no more rain had fallen here than on any of the other hills in the neighbourhood, nor is this one any higher than others about here, nor is the gully in any way different to dozens of others which I visited, except that this one had a little water, and all the rest none. [57] I have in gratitude called this hill Mount Udor, as being the only one in this region where a drop of that requisite element was to be obtained; and when I left, the udor had departed also. I had to get two of my riding horses shod today, as the country I intend to travel over is about half stones and half scrub, and my riding horses are very tender footed. I have marked a gum tree in this gully, close to the foot of the rocks where I found the water, 21 , as this is my twenty-first camp from Chambers's Pillar. My position here is in latitude 23° 14', and longitude 13 1°, variant 3° (nearly) E.
Thursday, 26th September. - I was glad to find this morning that my water supply is still holding out as well as could be expected, the trickling not yet having ceased. The thermometer was high this morning, viz., 54°, and the day rather warm, though the thermometer, in the shade at three o'clock, did not rise higher than 86°, yet as we were in such a confined gully not a breath of wind could get to us, which I suppose made it feel warmer. In the sun the thermometer stood at 124°. I remained in camp today to enable the newly-shod horses to get used to their shoes, as one of them was dead lame when shod; there was but poor feed about here, and the horses wandered a good distance away into the scrub, and four of them could nor be found.
Friday, 27th September. - The first part of last night was close and sultry, when a slight thunderstorm passed over us; the rain merely sprinkled down for nearly an hour, during which time not sufficient fell to damp a pocket handkerchief. In the morning the thermometer stood at 60°; the sky was much overcast in many places, and it seems possible we may have a change. The flies in this gully have been most tormenting for the last two days. The water in the rocks, I am glad to say, is still holding out, and I trust it will do so while I am away, and that the party will nor have to retreat during my absence. [58]
The horses did not arrive very early, and it was long past midday when, after watering them, I started away by myself to the ranges out west. I proceeded on our old tracks as far as we went the other day, that is to say, nearly west for twelve miles. At that point some other hills bore in the direction of N 77° W, which was nearly the line the far ranges lay upon. I reached the foot of the first hills in fifteen miles further. The country alternated between open stones near the hills and dense scrub a mile away from them. The far range now lay right ahead of me, and bore N 75° W, with a bed of scrub all the way between. It was near evening when I entered the scrub, which consists of mulga and other bushes. It was the thickest scrub, I think, I ever encountered; it was almost impenetrable, especially in spots, and it was with the greatest difficulty I could get the horse I was leading to come on at all, as I had no power over him whatever; he would drag so on my arm that he nearly pulled me off my horse, and made it most difficult to use the compass and continue in a straight course. Night at length overtook me in the scrub, and I was compelled to encamp in the midst of it, having travelled thirty-nine miles from camp.
During the evening the sky was overcast, and very slight sprinkling rain fell, and at intervals it sprinkled me during the night. It was a good thing for the horses, as it moistened the dry grass upon which they were hobbled out. I hoped at the camp they would have had a good shower, as it appeared to be raining in that direction.
Saturday, 28th September. - I was up early enough from my solitary couch, but was compelled to wait until daylight before I could commence to track my horses. The thermometer stood at 60°. The horses wandered back nearly to the last hills we had passed, seven or eight miles, and it was rather late when I returned to my night's resting place and saddled up. The sky was still cloudy and the weather warm and sultry; no signs of rain appeared upon the ground. [59]
I left this wretched camping place behind me at last, and continued pushing on through the scrub, and in about seven or eight miles I at length came nut of it at the foot of the mountain I had been steering for. There was a little gum creek, or gully rather, where I struck it, and I rode up it. It was as all the others had been, scrubby, rocky, and dry. I left the horses and ascended to the top, which was between 900 and 1,000 feet above the scrubs which surrounded it. The horizon was broken by low ranges nearly all round, but scrubs intervened between them all. I descended again and walked into dozens of gullies and rocky places, and found some small basins that would hold water for some weeks, but at the time of my visit they were all dry. I was at this spot nearly eighty miles from a sufficient supply of water; that at the camp, forty-five miles away, would probably be gone by the time I returned, if, indeed, my companions had nor already been compelled to retreat. I could nor go any further west on this line under these circumstances, for my horses had already been one night without water. It was now evening again, and they would get none tonight, as I had found none during my walk about the hills, so I left this desolate range, which I called the Ehrenberg Range, after a scientific friend of Baron Mueller, and retreated into the scrub again. I travelled upon a different line this time, going nearly east, hoping to find a rather less thick part of it, but it was all alike. Night again overtook me, and I had to remain again in this scrub, not very far away from where I had slept the night before. I had not travelled very far today, only having accomplished about twenty miles, but the day was wasted in an ineffectual search for water round the base of the ranges.
Sunday, 29th September. - I had so short hobbled my horses last night that though the scrub was as thick as possible yet they did not go out of sight, in fact I might as well have tied them up, for they scarcely went a yard. I continued my east course for seven or eight miles further, which brought me to the north side of a range round whose southern base I had passed yesterday. I had gone this way in hopes of meeting some small creek or place where I might find a little water, but none such seemed to exist. [60] I also went round the northern side of the hills (we had been at upon the south side with the packhorses) for the same reason, but no water could be found. It was late in the afternoon when I reached the camp, and I was gladdened to find the party still there, and that the water supply had held out so long. I had travelled thirty-three miles today.
Monday, 30th September. - The water supply this morning was at a very low ebb, the trickling having ceased from the upper holes, though it was still oozing over the rocks into the lower ones. I intended to pack up and be off from this place, where we have had such misery, for I never was camped in a worse place, I believe. It was an expedition in itself to get water for the camp from the rocks; the horses dreaded to approach it on account of their feet being tender. It required also much work to get sufficient firewood to boil a quart pot; for, although we were camped in a dense thicket, it was all green and useless for firewood.
I intended to retreat from here today, but just as Robinson was starting to find the horses a shower of rain came on, and I was in hopes it might end in a reasonable fall, so I decided to remain one day longer, especially as the horses would not now (in consequence of the shower, and nor being brought to it) touch upon the last remains of our water supply. The trickling had at length ceased altogether, but the little holes were full, and there was just a bare drink for the horses and no more; the rain fell in such slight and gentle showers for two or three hours that it left no trace of its fall even upon the rocks, so that our water supply was not increased by one pint. I have no alternative but to retreat from this den back to the creek I came from.
When I left the creek its course was (or rather had been) nor far from a west point, though from there it seemed to incline more to the south. I thought by going a south course from here to intersect it in the course of twenty-five to thirty-five miles, supposing its course carried it so far to the westward of where I left it; so, upon starting from here, I decided to travel upon that bearing. [61] A few quandong trees exist amongst these gullies; also a tree known by the name of the corkwood tree. The wood certainly is soft and light, but it is by no means a handsome tree. Those I saw were nearly all dead; they grow in the little water channels. The ants here, as in nearly all tropical Australia, build their nests from four to five feet high, to escape I suppose from the torrents of rain that at times fall in those regions; it also protects their stores and eggs from the fires the natives continually keep going. This fact probably accounts for the absence of insects and reptiles so conspicuous here. One night, however, I actually saw some glow-worms. The native poplar is also found in the scrubs and water channels of this part of the country. The climate of this region appears very peculiar - scarcely a week passes without thunderstorms and rain; but the latter falls in such small quantities that it appears useless. I should like to know how much rain would have to fall before any could be discovered upon the surface of the ground. In a saltbush country, with the rains I have met since I started, water could be got at almost every turn in claypans and crab holes, but here no such thing exists, it is all either pure sand or pure rock. The native orange tree grows here, but the specimens I have met are very stunted; the bloodwood trees which always enliven any landscape where they are found, also grow here; but they are nor the magnificent vegetable structures that are known in Queensland, but are mostly gnarled and stunted; they also grow near the watercourses. [62]