Category: Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 11
Written by Edward John Eyre
November 7. — Breakfasted before daylight, and moved on with the earliest dawn to encounter a scrub which I knew to be of heavier timber, and growing more closely together than any we had yet attempted. It consisted of Eucalyptus dumosa and the salt-water tea-tree, (the latter of a very large growth and very dense,) in a heavy sandy soil.
By keeping the axes constantly at work in advance of the drays, we succeeded in slowly forcing a passage through this dreadful country, emerging in about seventeen miles at an open plain behind Point Brown, and in the midst of which was a well of water. The entrance to this well was by a circular opening, through a solid sheet of limestone, about fifteen inches in diameter, but enlarging a little about a foot below the surface. The water was at a depth of ten feet, and so choked up with sand and dirt that we were obliged to clear the hole out effectually before we could get any for the horses. This was both a difficult and an unpleasant occupation, as the man engaged in it had to lower himself through the very narrow aperture at the top and work in a very cramped position amongst the dirt and wet below, with the mud dripping upon him; it was drawn up in a bag, for a bucket could not be used in so contracted a space. As a spade could not be employed a large shell left by the natives was used for scooping up the dirt, which made the operation both slow and tiresome. Our horses were dreadfully fagged and very thirsty after the severe toil they had endured in dragging the drays through so heavy a scrub, but with all our exertions we could only obtain from the spring about two buckets of water apiece for them. As this was not nearly enough to satisfy them, I was obliged to have them watched for the night to prevent their straying. The men had been kept incessantly at work from five in the morning until nearly ten at night, and the additional duty of watching the horses bore very hard upon them; but they knew it to be necessary, and did it cheerfully.
We had passed during our route through one or two of the small grassy openings so constantly met with even in the densest scrubs, and, as usual, I noticed upon these plains the remains of former scrub, where the trees were apparently of a larger growth than those now existing around. The soil too, from a loose sand, had become firmer and more united, and wherever the scrub had disappeared its place had been supplied by grass. This strongly confirmed my opinion, long ago formed, that those vast level wastes in Australia, now covered with low scrub, (and formerly, I imagine, the bed of the ocean,) are gradually undergoing a process of amelioration which may one day fit them for the purposes of pasture or agriculture. The smoke of many native fires was seen during the day behind and around us, but we did not fall in with any of the natives.