August 31.—This morning I sent the overseer back to the depot with the cart and two horses, whilst I and the native boy proceeded on our route on horseback, taking also a man leading a pack–horse to carry water for us the first day. Following down the watercourse, we passed through some imposing scenery, consisting of cliffs from six to eight hundred feet in height, rising perpendicularly from their bases, below which were recesses, into which the sun never shone, and whose gloomy grandeur imparted a melancholy cast to the thoughts and feelings, in unison with the sublimity of the scene around.
After travelling twelve miles from the camp, we got clear of the hills, and found an open country before us to the north; through this we proceeded for ten miles further, still following the direction of the watercourse, and halting upon it for the night, after having made a stage of twenty–two miles. We had tolerable grass for the horses, but were obliged to give them water from the kegs.
At this place I was much astonished to see four white cockatoos, flying about among the gum–trees in the watercourse, and immediately commenced a narrow search for water, as I knew those birds did not frequently go far away from it: there was not, however, a drop to be found anywhere, nor the least sign of there having been any for a long time. What made the circumstance of finding cockatoos here so surprising and unusual was, that for the last two hundred miles we had never seen one at all. Where then had these four birds come from? could it be that they had followed under Flinders range from the south, and had strayed so far away from all others of their kind, or had they come from some better country beyond the desert by which I was surrounded, or how was that country to be attained, supposing it to exist? Time only may reply to these queries, but the occasion which prompted them was, to say the least, extraordinary.
Towards night the sky became overcast with clouds, and as I saw that we should have rain, I set to work with the boy and made a house of boughs for our protection, but the man who accompanied us was too indolent to take the same precaution, thinking probably that the rain would pass away as it had often done before. In this, however, he was disappointed, for the rain came down in torrents [Note 7 at end para.]—in an hour or two the whole country was inundated, and he was taught a lesson of industry at the expense of a thorough and unmitigated drenching.
[Note 7: This will not appear surprising, when the great amount of rain which falls annually in some parts of Australia, is taken into account. The Count Strzelecki gives 62.68 inches, as the average annual fall for upwards of twenty years, at Port Macquarie.—At p. 193, that gentleman remarks:—”The greatest fall of rain recorded in New South Wales, during 24 hours, amounted to 25 inches. (Port Jackson).”]