Category: Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 3
Written by Edward John Eyre
June 27.—During the night the frost had been so severe, that we were obliged to wait a little this morning for the sun to thaw the tent and tarpaulins before they would bend to fold up. After starting, we proceeded across a high barren open country, for about three miles on a W. N. W. course, passing close under a peak connected with Campbell’s range, which I named Spring Hill, from the circumstance of a fine spring of water being found about half way up it.
Not far from the spring I discovered a poor emaciated native, entirely alone, without either food or fire, and evidently left by his tribe to perish there; he was a very aged man, and from hardship and want was reduced to a mere skeleton, how long he had been on the spot where we found him I had no means of ascertaining, but probably for some time, as life appeared to be fast ebbing away; he seemed almost unconscious of our presence, and stared upon us with a vacant unmeaning gaze. The pleasures or sorrows of life were for ever over with him: his case was far beyond the reach of human aid, and the probability is that he died a very few hours after we left him.
Such is the fate of the aged and helpless in savage life, nor can we wonder that it should be so, since self–preservation is the first law of nature, and the wandering native who has to travel always over a great extent of ground to seek for his daily food, could not obtain enough to support his existence, if obliged to remain with the old or the sick, or if impeded by the incumbrance of carrying them with him; still I felt grieved for the poor old man we had left behind us, and it was long before I could drive away his image from my mind, or repress the melancholy train of thoughts that the circumstance had called forth.
From the summit of Spring Hill, I observed extensive plains to the N. W. skirted both on their eastern and western sides, by open hills, whilst to the N. W. and N. E. the ranges were high, and apparently terminated in both directions by peaked summits on their eastern extremes; a little south of west the waters of Spencer’s Gulf were distinctly visible, and the smokes ascending from the fires of the natives, were seen in many directions among the hills. After passing Spring Hill, we crossed some rich and extensive plains, stretching far away to the northward, and taking a nearly north and south direction under Campbell’s range; in the upper part of these plains is the deep bed of a watercourse with water in it all the year round, and opposite to which, in lat. 33 degrees 14 minutes S, is a practicable pass for drays through Campbell’s range, to the grassy country to the eastward.
In crossing the southern extremity of these large plains, we came suddenly upon a small party of natives engaged in digging yams of which the plains were full; they were so intent upon their occupation that we were close to them before they were aware of our presence; when they saw us they appeared to be surprised and alarmed, and endeavoured to steal off as rapidly as they could without fairly taking to their heels, for they were evidently either unwilling or afraid to run; finding that we did not molest them they halted, and informed us by signs that we should soon come to water, in the direction we were going. This I knew to be true, and about three o’clock we were in front of a water–course, I had on a former journey named the “Rocky river,” from the ragged character of its bed where we struck it.
We had been travelling for some distance upon a high level open country, and now came to a sudden gorge of several hundred feet below us, through which the Rocky river wound its course. It was a most singular and wild looking place, and was not inaptly named by the men, the “Devil’s Glen;” looking down from the table land we were upon, the valley beneath appeared occupied by a hundred little hills of steep ascent and rounded summits, whilst through their pretty glens, flowed the winding stream, shaded by many a tree and shrub—the whole forming a most interesting and picturesque scene.
The bed of the watercourse was over an earthy slate, and the water had a sweetish taste. Like most of the Australian rivers, it consisted only of ponds connected by a running stream, and even that ceased to flow a little beyond where we struck it, being lost in the deep sandy channel which it then assumed, and which exhibited in many places traces of very high floods. Below our camp the banks were 50 to 60 feet high, and the width from 60 to 100 yards, its course lay through plains to the south–west, over which patches of scrub were scattered at intervals, and the land in its vicinity was of an inferior description, with much prickly grass growing upon it.
Upwards, the Rocky river, after emerging from the gorges in which we found it, descended through very extensive plains from the north–north–east; there was plenty of water in its bed, and abundance of grass over the plains, so that in its upper parts it offers fine and extensive runs for either cattle or sheep, and will, I have no doubt, ere many years be past, be fully occupied for pastoral purposes.
From our present encampment a very high and pointed hill was visible far to the N.N. W. this from the lofty way in which it towered above the surrounding hills, I named Mount Remarkable. Our latitude at noon was 33 degrees 25 minutes 26 seconds S.
A very beautiful shrub was found this afternoon upon the Rocky river, in full flower: it was a tall slender stalked bush, about six or eight feet high, growing almost in the bed of the river, with leaves like a geranium, and fine delicate lilac flowers about an inch and a half in diameter; here, too, we found the first gum–trees seen upon any of the watercourses for many miles, as all those we had recently crossed, traversed open plains which were quite without either trees or shrubs of any kind.