John McDouall Stuart - Sixth Expedition


After leaving the Hugh, on February 25th, they were again annoyed by the natives.

When about half-way through the gorge, they "set fire to the grass and dry wood across the creek, which caused a dense smoke to blow in our faces. I had the party prepared for an attack.

After passing through the smoke and fire, three natives made their appearance about twenty-five yards off, on the hill side, armed with spears and shields, and bidding us defiance by placing the spears in the womeras, and yelling out at the highest pitch of their voices.

I ordered Auld to dismount and fire a shot a little distance on one side of them, to let them know what distance our weapons carried. The ball struck the rock pointed out to him to aim at, and stopped their yelling, but seemed to have no other effect. I again ordered him to fire at the rock on which the middle one of the three was standing; the shot was a good one, for the ball struck the desired spot, and immediately had the effect of sending them all off at full speed."

Again, on March 5th, while crossing the plains under Mount Hay, they came suddenly on three natives armed with long spears and shields, who ran off into the scrub.

A short distance further, while watering the horses at some rain water, these three natives returned, accompanied by four others, and made signs of hostility, by yelling and shaking their spears, and performing other threatening antics while widely separating themselves in a half-circle.

Mr. Stuart says:

"I had the party prepared to receive an attack; but when they saw us stationary they approached no nearer.

I ordered some of the party to fire close to them, to show them we could injure them at a long distance, if they continued to annoy us, but they did not seem at all frightened at the report of the rifles nor the whizzing of the balls near to them, since they still remained in a threatening attitude.

With the aid of a telescope we could perceive a number of others concealed in the belt of scrub. They all seemed fine muscular men.

There was one tall fellow in particular with a large shield and a very long spear (upwards of twelve feet), which he seemed very anxious to use if he could have got within distance.

We crossed the creek, and had proceeded a short distance across the plain, when they again came running towards us, apparently determined to attack; they were received with a discharge of rifles, which caused them to retire and keep at a respectful distance.

Having already wasted too much time with them, I proceeded over the plain, keeping a sharp look-out; should they threaten us again, I shall allow them to come close, and make an example of them. It is evident their designs are hostile.

Before entering the scrub we could see no signs of them following. About sundown, arrived at Mount Harris without further annoyance."

A week later (on March 12th) the Centre was passed; and on the 17th, while going from Woodforde Creek through the bad country towards the Bonney, Thring met with an awkward accident, which his leader thus describes:

"Being anxious to keep my old tracks through the scrub, as it does not wear the saddle-bags so much as breaking through a new line, I missed them about two miles after starting, in consequence of the earliness and cloudiness of the morning.

I sent Thring in search of them, and he, on finding them a short distance off, fired his revolver to let us know that the tracks were found.

The young horse he was riding stood the first report very well. I, not hearing the report, was moving on, which caused him to fire again, whereupon his horse backed and threw him with violence to the ground on his chest. He feels his chest is much hurt by the fall.

The horse then returned on the tracks at full gallop," and was not recovered until shortly before sundown.

The party camped at Attack Creek on Friday, March 28th, and at Tomkinson Creek on the 31st.

On April 3rd, while crossing the Gleeson, Kekwick's horse fell back with him in ascending the bank, and broke the stock of his gun, but he himself escaped unhurt.

On Saturday, April 5th, they camped at the east end of Newcastle Water, and the following day, "at about 9 o'clock a.m. Kekwick, in endeavouring to shoot some ducks, went towards some native smoke, and was met by two natives, who ran away.

In an hour afterwards, five natives came within a hundred yards of the camp, and seemed anxious to come up to it, but were not permitted.

Two hours afterwards we were again visited by fifteen more, to some of whom a present was made of some looking-glasses and handkerchiefs; at the same time they were given to understand that they must not approach nearer to the camp, and signs were made to them to return to their own camp, which they shortly did.

In the afternoon we were again visited by nineteen of them, who approached within a hundred yards of the camp, when they all sat down and had a good stare at us, remaining a long time without showing any inclination to go.

At length some of them started the horses which were feeding near the water, and made them gallop towards the camp. This so frightened the natives that they all ran away, and we were not troubled with them for the rest of the evening."

The next day the camp was moved to the north end of Newcastle Water, where they remained for a week resting horses and repairing bags, saddles, etc.

The Journal then continues as follows: