August 27.—Having risen and breakfasted very early, I took Mr. Scott and a native boy with me, and steered for a very high hill with rather a rounded summit, bearing from our camp E. 17 degrees S. This I named Mount Serle, in accordance with a request made to me before my departure, by the Governor, that I would name some remarkable feature in the country after Mr. Serle. This was the most prominent object we had hitherto met with; among high ranges it appeared the highest, and from a height above our present encampment, it had been selected by us as the most likely point from which to obtain a view to the eastward.
The elevation of this hill could not be less than three thousand feet above the level of the sea; but unfortunately, the injury my barometer had sustained in the escape of some of the mercury, and my being unable to fill it again properly, quite precluded me from ascertaining the height with accuracy.
In our route to Mount Serle, we observed another hill rather more to the northward, seemingly of as great an altitude as Mount Serle itself; this was not situate in the Mount Serle range, nor had it been seen by us in our view from the height above the depot.
At ten miles from our camp, we came to a large watercourse, emanating from the Mount Serle range on the south side, and running close under its western aspect, with an abundance of excellent clear water in it. This I named the Frome, after the Surveyor–general of the colony, to whose kindness I was so much indebted in preparing my outfit and for the loan of instruments for the use of the expedition.
Having watered our horses we tied them up to some trees, and commenced the ascent of Mount Serle on foot. The day was exceedingly hot, and we found our task a much harder one than we had anticipated, being compelled to wind up and down several steep and rugged ridges before we could reach the main one.
At length, however, having overcome all difficulties we stood upon the summit of the mountain. Our view was then extensive and final. At one glance I saw the realization of my worst forebodings; and the termination of the expedition of which I had the command. Lake Torrens now faced us to the east, whilst on every side we were hemmed in by a barrier which we could never hope to pass. Our toils and labours and privations, had all been endured to no purpose; and the only alternative left us would be to return, disappointed and baffled.
To the north and north–west the horizon was unbroken to the naked eye, but with the aid of a powerful telescope I could discover fragments of table land similar to those I had seen in the neighbourhood of the lake in that direction. At N. 8 degrees W. a very small haycock–looking hill might be seen above the level waste, probably the last of the low spurs of Flinders range to the north. To the north–east, the view was obstructed by a high range immediately in front of us, but to the east and as far as E. 13 degrees S. we saw through a break in the hills, a broad glittering belt in appearance, like the bed of a lake, but apparently dry.
The ranges seemed to continue to the eastward of Mount Serle for about fifteen miles, and then terminated abruptly in a low, level, scrubby–looking country, also about fifteen miles in extent, between the hills and the borders of the lake. The latter appearing about twenty–five miles across, whilst beyond it was a level region without a height or elevation of any kind.
Connecting the view before me with the fact that on the 14th August, when in about lat. 29 degrees S., I had found Lake Torrens turning round to the north–east, and had observed no continuation of Flinders range to the eastward of my position, I could now no longer doubt that I had almost arrived at the termination of that range, and that the glittering belt I now saw to the east, was in fact only an arm of the lake taking the drainage from its eastern slopes.
Sad and painful were the thoughts that occupied my mind in returning to the camp. Hitherto, even when placed in the most difficult or desperate circumstances I was cheered by hope, but now I had no longer even that frail solace to cling to, there was no mistaking the nature of the country, by which we were surrounded on every side, and no room for doubting its impracticability.