John McDouall Stuart - Sixth Expedition


Monday, 19th May, King's Chain of Ponds. As the sky is overcast with clouds, so that I cannot see the sun, and as it is nearly impossible to keep a straight course in such thick country without it, I shall remain here to-day, and if it should break up I shall endeavour to take a lunar observation. At 9 o'clock a.m. it cleared up, which enabled me to take one. The remainder of the day very hot. Wind variable, with clouds from every direction; towards sundown it again settled in the south-east, and all the clouds disappeared without any rain falling.
Tuesday, 20th May, King's Chain of Ponds. Leaving Mr. Kekwick in charge of the party, I started with Thring, King, and Auld, at half-past nine a.m., on a northern course; at one o'clock p.m. changed to 65 degrees, to what appeared to be a bare hill. At a little more than a mile struck a small watercourse running towards the north; followed it, and at about two miles and a half came on some ponds of water, but not so large as those at our depot; at present they are not more than three feet and a half deep. Examined around the wooded plain to see if there was any larger body of water, but could see none. This plain is covered with small gums, having a dark bluish-green leaf with a grey-coloured bark; there are also a few white ones around the ponds of water, which abound with grass. Before reaching the plain we crossed what seemed to be elevated sandy table land, extending about nine miles, covered with spinifex and dark-coloured gum-trees; we also passed two or three narrow belts of tall mulga and hedge-trees which grow on the stony rises, about twenty feet high. These ponds I name Auld's Ponds, in token of my approbation of his conduct. Wind, south-east. Latitude, 16 degrees 28 minutes 16 seconds.
Wednesday, 21st May, Auld's Chain of Ponds. Started at twenty minutes past eight o'clock a.m., course north. The morning was so thick, with a heavy fog, that I did not get a start till late. At three miles I found another chain of ponds, but not so large; these I name McGorrerey Ponds. Proceeded on the same course and passed through some thick belts of hedge-tree and scrub; the country then opened and became splendidly grassed, with gums and other trees. We also saw, for the first time, a new gum-tree, having a large broad dark-green leaf, and the bark of a nankeen colour, which gave a very pretty effect to the country. At seventeen miles, not finding any water, and having passed five deep holes surrounded with ironstone conglomerate rock similar to Frew's Water Hole, but without any water in them, and to all appearance the dip of the country being to the north-east, I have changed my course to that direction, again travelling over a splendidly grassed country for ten miles, occasionally meeting with low stony rises of ironstone and gravel, at the foot of which were some more deep holes without water. In the last three miles we had to get through a few patches of scrub; the grass is all very dry. No rain seems to have fallen here for a long time. At sundown camped without water. Day very hot. Wind variable, with a few clouds. Latitude, 16 degrees 8 minutes 39 seconds.
Thursday, 22nd May, Fine Grass Country. Returned to McGorrerey Ponds. Day very hot, and the horses much distressed for want of water; they have the appearance of being half-starved for a month, and have taken an immense quantity of water, having gone to it about four or five times in an hour. As I am not satisfied that these ponds cease here, I shall try again to-morrow a little more to the east. Wind, south-east.
Friday, 23rd May, McGorrerey Ponds. Gave the horses a little time to feed after daylight in consequence of their having been tethered during the night; the country is so thickly wooded that I dare not trust them in hobbles the whole night, as, if they were lost sight of there would be great difficulty in finding them here. There is still the appearance of a small creek, which I shall follow until it runs out or trends too much to the east. Started at half-past eight o'clock a.m., course 20 degrees east of north, following the small creek about two miles; it seems to be getting larger, with occasionally a little water in it. We have also seen, on both sides of us, ponds with water surrounded by gum-trees; these ponds, when full, must retain water for a long time. We have also seen a new tree growing on the banks of the creek, with a large straight barrel, dark smooth bark, with bunches of bright yellow flowers and palmated leaves. At a mile and a half further the creek is improving wonderfully. We have now passed some fine holes of water, which will last at least three months; at five miles the water is becoming more plentiful and the creek broader and deeper, but twisting and turning about very much, sometimes running east and then turning to the west and all other points of the compass. Having seen what I consider to be permanent water, I shall now run a straight course, 20 degrees east of north, and strike it occasionally to see if the water continues. I have named these Daly Waters, in honour of his Excellency the Governor-in-Chief. Within a hundred yards the banks are thickly wooded with tall mulga and lancewood scrub; but to the east is open gum forest, splendidly grassed. Proceeded, occasionally touching the creek, and always found fine reaches of water, which continued a considerable way. At thirteen miles they become smaller and wider apart; at fifteen miles the creek seems to be trending more to the eastward, its bed is now conglomerate ironstone, and, as this appears to be about the last water, I shall give the horses a drink and follow it as far as it goes. In a short distance it has become quite dry, with a deep broad course upwards of twenty yards wide. At seventeen miles it separated into two channels, and at a quarter of a mile the two channels emptied themselves into a large boggy swamp, with no surface water. I examined the swamp, but could see no outlet. The country round about is thickly timbered with gum and other trees. Returned to the last water and camped. I shall return to the Depot and bring the party up here. Wind, south-east; a few clouds at sunset.