John McDouall Stuart - Sixth Expedition


Tuesday, 29th April, Sturt Plains. Started on an easterly course, following the flight of the birds; but at five miles crossed the open gum plain, and again encountered the thick forest. Examined every place I could see or think of where water was likely to be found, but was again disappointed--not a drop was to be seen. Changed my course, so as to keep on the plain; at four miles again crossed, and again met the dense forest, but still no water. Changed to south-east, and at ten miles found ourselves on a large stunted-gum plain. Changed to a little east of south, and arrived at the camp without seeing a drop of water. Wind variable, with heavy clouds from the east.
Wednesday, 30th April, Howell Ponds. I feel so unwell to-day that I am unable to go out, besides I shall require my compass case and other things mended; they got torn to pieces in the last journey by the forest and the scrub. Yesterday's clouds are all gone, and have left us no rain. Another hot day. Wind, east.
Thursday, 1st May, Howell Ponds. Leaving Mr. Kekwick in charge of the party, started with King and Thring to the water hole that I discovered on the 15th ultimo; arrived in the afternoon and camped. This water hole I have named Frew's Water Hole, in token of my approbation of his care of, and attention to, the horses. This waterhole is about twenty feet below the plain, surrounded by a conglomerate ironstone rock. Since my last visit it is only reduced two inches, and is still a large body of clear water from the drainage of the adjacent country; it will last much longer than I anticipated. I shall use my best endeavours to-morrow to find an opening in the thick scrub from north to north-west. The course of the forest seems to run a little west of north, and I am afraid the open plains are surrounded by it; however, I shall try to get through it if I possibly can. Wind, south-east. Day excessively hot.
Friday, 2nd May, Frew's Water Hole. Started at half-past seven o'clock a.m. Course, 335 degrees. At ten miles, a dense forest and scrub. Changed to 10 degrees east of north. At half a mile struck a water-shed, and followed it north for two miles. Found a little rainwater in it, and at two miles further arrived at its source. At three miles further on the same course changed to 30 degrees east of north. At three miles and a half again changed to 320 degrees, and at about a mile and a half struck some fine ponds of water. At two miles further, arrived at what seemed to be the last water, a small shallow pond. Examined around the plain to try and find others, but without success. A little before sundown, returned to the last water and camped. The first part of the day's journey was over a stunted-gum plain, covered with grass. At ten miles we again met with thick forest and scrub. I then changed my course to get out of it, and struck the small water-shed running to the east of south. Following it generally for two miles on a northerly course, we met with a little rain water. Continued the same course through a thick forest and scrub for three miles and a half to get through it if possible. At this point it becomes denser than ever. Sent Thring to climb to the top of a tree, from which he saw apparently a change in one of the low scrubby rises, which appeared to be not so thickly covered with scrub as the others. I directed my course to it, 30 degrees east of north, to examine it. I observe that there is some sandstone in the low scrubby rises, which leads me to hope that I may not be far from a change of country. On this last course we travelled three miles, through a dense thicket of hedge-tree, when I observed some large gum-trees bearing 320 degrees, and decided to examine them before leaving the rise. As I approached nearer to it I again sent Thring to climb a tree to see if there was any change. He could see nothing but the same description of forest and scrub. The change that he saw from the other tree was the shade of the sun on the lower mulga bushes, which caused him to suppose that it was more open country. Not seeing any opening in that direction, I changed to the gum-trees. At a mile and a half was delighted at the sight of a chain of fine water holes; their course north-west to south-east, the flow apparently to south-east. I followed one pond, which was about half a mile long and appeared to be deep. A number of smaller ones succeeded. They then ceased, and I crossed a small plain, which shows signs of being at times covered with water. Observing some green and white barked gum-trees on the west side of it, I went to them, and found a small watercourse with small pools of water, which flowed into the plain coming from the north-west. Following it a little further, we met with some more water. A short distance above this it ceased in the dense forest which seems to surround these ponds. I shall endeavour to force my way through it to-morrow to the west of north. Wind, south-east, with a few clouds in the same direction. These ponds I name King's Ponds, in token of my approbation of his care of, and attention to, the horses, and his readiness and care in executing all my orders. Wind, south-east, with a few clouds in the same direction.
Saturday, 3rd May, King's Chain of Ponds. Started at twenty minutes past seven a.m., on a course of 350 degrees. At twenty-four miles changed to 45 degrees; at three miles and a half changed to north; at two miles and a half camped. At two miles from our last night's camp found an easy passage through the forest; the rest of the twenty-four miles was over a well-grassed country, well wooded with gum and some new trees that I had found last year, and occasionally a little scrub, in some places thick for a short distance. On my first course, before changing, I was crossing low ironstone undulations, which caused me to think I was running along the side of one of the scrubby rises. I therefore changed to 45 degrees east of north to make the plain--if there is any--the scrub being so thick that I cannot see more than fifty yards before me. At three miles and a half I found that I was travelling over the same description of small rises and getting into much thicker scrub. I again changed to north, to see if that would lead me into a plain. At two miles and a half it was still the same, and apparently a thick forest and scrub before us. I camped a little before sundown at a small open place to tether the horses. I have not seen a drop of water during the whole journey, nor any place likely to retain it, with the exception of a small flat about six miles from the last camp. The day very hot. Wind, south-east, with a few clouds.