September 2.—At thirty–five miles we reached the little elevation I had been steering for, and ascended Mount Hopeless, and cheerless and hopeless indeed was the prospect before us. As I had anticipated, the view was both extensive and decisive. We were now past all the ranges; and for three quarters of the compass, extending from south, round by east and north, to west, the horizon was one unbroken level, except where the fragments of table land, or the ridge of the lake, interrupted its uniformity
The lake was now visible to the north and to the east; and I had at last ascertained, beyond all doubt, that its basin, commencing near the head of Spencer’s Gulf, and following the course of Flinders range (bending round its northern extreme to the southward), constituted those hills the termination of the island of South Australia, for such I imagine it once to have been. This closed all my dreams as to the expedition, and put an end to an undertaking from which so much was anticipated. I had now a view before me that would have damped the ardour of the most enthusiastic, or dissipated the doubts of the most seeptical. To the showers that fell on the evening of the 31st of August, we were solely indebted for having been able to travel thus far; had there been much more rain the country would have been impracticable for horses,—if less we could not have procured water to have enabled us to make such a push as we had done.
The lake where it was visible, appeared, as it had ever done, to be from twenty–five to thirty miles across, and its distance from Mount Hopeless was nearly the same. The hills to the S. and S. W. of us, seemed to terminate on the eastern slopes, as abruptly as on the western; and from the point where we stood, we could distinctly trace by the gum–trees, the direction of watercourses emanating from among them, taking northerly, north–easterly, easterly and south–easterly courses, according to the point of the range they came from. This had been the case during the whole of our route under Flinder’s range. We had at first found the watercourses going to the south of west, then west, north–west, north, and now north–east, east and south–east. I had, at the same time, observed all around this mountain mass, the appearance of the bed of a large lake, following the general course of the ranges on every side, and receiving, apparently, the whole drainage from them.
On its western, and north–western shores, I had ascertained by actual examination, that its basin was a very low level, clearly defined, and effectually inclosed by an elevated continuous sandy ridge, like the outer boundary of a sea–shore, its area being of immense extent, and its bed of so soft and yielding a nature, as to make it quite impossible to cross it. All these points I had decided positively, and finally, as far as regards that part of Lake Torrens, from near the head of Spencer’s Gulf, to the most north–westerly part of it, which I visited on the 14th of August, embracing a course of fully 200 miles in its outline. I had done this, too, under circumstances of great difficulty, toil, and anxiety, and not without the constant risk of losing my horses, from the fatigues and privations of the forced labours I was obliged to impose upon them.
Having ascertained these particulars, and at so much hazard, relative to Lake Torrens, for so great a part of its course, what conclusion could I arrive at with regard to the character of its other half to the north–east, and east of Flinders ranges, as seen from Mount Hopeless, and Mount Serle points, nearly ninety miles apart! The appearances from the ranges were similar; the trend of all the watercourses was to the same basin, and undoubtedly that basin, if traced far enough, must be of nearly the same level on the eastern, as on the western side of the ranges. I had completely ascertained that Flinders range had terminated to the eastward, the north–east, and the north; that there were no hills or elevations connected with it beyond, in any of these directions, and that the horizon every where was one low uninterrupted level.
With such data, and under such circumstances, what other opinion could I possibly arrive at, than that the bed of Lake Torrens was nearly similar in its character, and equally impracticable in its eastern, as its western arm; and that, considering the difficulties I had encountered, and the hazards I had subjected myself to, in ascertaining these points so minutely on the western side, I could not be justified in renewing those risks to the eastward, where the nature and extent of the impediments were so self–evidently the same, and where there was not the slightest hope of any useful result being attained by it.
I was now more than a hundred miles away from my party; and having sent them orders to move back towards Mount Arden, I had no time to lose in following them. With bitter feelings of disappointment I turned from the dreary and cheerless scene around me, and pushing the horses on as well as circumstances would allow, succeeded in retracing ten miles of my course by a little after dark, having completed a stage of fully forty–five miles during the day. Here there was tolerable good grass, and plenty of water from the late rains, so that the horses were more fortunate on this excursion than usual. I observed the variation to be 4 degrees E.