August 21.—Not having seen the natives for the last two days, I thought I might venture to explore the watercourse we were encamped upon, and set off on horseback immediately after breakfast, accompanied by Mr. Scott.
We traced up its stony and rugged bed for about seven miles among the hills, to a point where the scenery was peculiarly grand and sublime. The cliffs rose perpendicularly from the channel of the watercourse to a height of from six to eight hundred feet, towering above us in awful and imposing prominencies. At their base was a large pool of clear though brackish water; and a little beyond a clump of rushes, indicating the existence of a spring. In the centre of these rushes the natives had dug a small well, but the water was no better than that in the larger pool.
The natives generally resort to such places as these when the rain water is dried up in the plains or among the hills immediately skirting them. Far among the fastnesses of the interior ranges, these children of the wilds find resources which always sustain them when their ordinary supplies are cut off; but they are not of corresponding advantage to the explorer, because they are difficult of access, not easily found, and seldom contain any food for his horses, so that he can barely call at them and pass on. Such was the wretched and impracticable character of the country in which we were now placed.
Having tied up our horses, Mr. Scott and I ascended to the top of the high cliff by winding along the ridges at the back of it. From its summit we had an extensive view, and I was enabled to take several angles. One of the high peaks in the Mount Deception range bearing S. 35 degrees W. about five miles off I named Mount Scott. To the east were seen high ranges, to which I had sent my overseer. Descending the hill we examined the course of the watercourse a few miles further, and ascertaining that there was no more water in it, retraced our steps towards the depot, somewhat fatigued with clambering up rocky ranges under the oppressive heat of an almost tropical sun.
In the course of the morning Mr. Scott shot a rock wallabie of rather a large species, and many more were seen about the high perpendicular cliff under which we had found the water. These singular animals appeared to have a wonderful facility for scaling precipices, for they leapt and clambered up among the steep sides of the cliffs in a manner quite incredible, and where it was perfectly impossible for any human being to follow them.
In the evening the overseer and native boy returned, they had traced up the watercourse I turned back from on the 5th of August, and had found water in it about eight miles beyond where I gave up the search. They had also visited the native camp where the two little children had been left deserted, they were now gone, and the whole plain around had been strewed with green boughs. The handkerchief I had tied round the eldest child had been taken off and left at the camp, the natives probably dreading to have anything to do with property belonging to such fearful enchanters as they doubtless suspected us to be.
Our party being once more all together, it became necessary to decide upon our future movements, the water in the hole at the depot being nearly all used, and what was left being very muddy and unpalatable. Before I abandoned our present position, however, I was anxious to make a journey to the shores of Lake Torrens to the westward; I had already visited its basin at points fully 150 miles apart, viz. in about 29 degrees 10 minutes S. latitude, and in 31 degrees 30 minutes S. I had also traced its course from various heights in Flinders range, from which it was distinctly visible, and in my mind, had not the slightest doubt that it was one continuous and connected basin. Still, from the hills of our present depot, it was not visible to the north of west, and I should not have felt myself justified in going away to the eastward, without positively ascertaining its connection with the basin I was at to the north–west; accordingly, as soon as the overseer returned I got ready for another harassing and uninteresting journey to the westward.