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Home -> David W Carnegie -> Spinifex and Sand -> Part 5 Chapter 6

Spinifex and Sand - Part 5 Chapter 6

1. Part 1 Chapter 1

2. Part 1 Chapter 2

3. Part 1 Chapter 3

4. Part 2 Chapter 1

5. Part 2 Chapter 2

6. Part 2 Chapter 3

7. Part 3 Chapter 1

8. Part 3 Chapter 2

9. Part 3 Chapter 3

10. Part 3 Chapter 4

11. Part 3 Chapter 5

12. Part 3 Chapter 6

13. Part 3 Chapter 7

14. Part 4 Chapter 1

15. Part 5 Chapter 1

16. Part 5 Chapter 2

17. Part 5 Chapter 3

18. Part 5 Chapter 4

19. Part 5 Chapter 5

20. Part 5 Chapter 6

21. Part 5 Chapter 7

22. Part 5 Chapter 8

23. Part 5 Chapter 9

24. Part 5 Chapter 10

25. Part 5 Chapter 11

26. Part 5 Chapter 12

27. Part 5 Chapter 13

28. Part 5 Chapter 14

29. Part 5 Chapter 15

30. Part 5 Chapter 16

31. Part 5 Chapter 17

32. Part 5 Chapter 18

33. Part 5 Appendix

34. Part 6 Chapter 1

35. Part 6 Chapter 2

36. Part 6 Chapter 3

37. Part 6 Chapter 4

38. Part 6 Chapter 5

39. Part 6 Chapter 6

40. Part 6 Chapter 7

41. Part 6 Chapter 8

42. Part 6 Chapter 9

43. Part 6 Chapter 10

44. Appendix



But for the flies, which never ceased to annoy us, we had enjoyed a real
good rest, and were ready to march on the morning of the 16th, no change
occurring in the character of the country until the evening of the 18th,
when we sighted a low tableland five miles to the North, and to the West
of it a table-topped detached hill. Between us and the hills one or two
native smokes were rising, which showed us that water must be somewhere
in the neighbourhood. From a high sandhill the next morning, we got a
better view, and could see behind the table-top another and similar hill.
I had no longer any doubt as to their being Mounts Worsnop and Allott
(Forrest, 1874), the points for which I had been steering, though at
first they appeared so insignificant that I hesitated to believe that
these were the right ones. From the West, from which direction Forrest
saw them first, they appear much higher, and are visible some twenty
miles off. From the North they are not visible a greater distance than
three miles, while from the East one can see them a distance of eight

I altered our course, therefore, towards the hills, and we shortly
crossed the narrow arm of a salt-lake; on the far side several tracks of
emus and natives caught my eye, and I sent Charlie on Satan to scout.
Before long he reported a fine sheet of water just ahead. This, as may be
imagined, came as a surprise to us; for a more unlikely thing to find,
considering the dry state of the rock-holes we had come upon, could not
have been suggested. However, there it was; and very glad we were to see
it, and lost no time in making camp and hobbling the camels. What a
glorious sight in this parched land!--so resting to the eye after days of
sand! How the camels wallowed in the fresh water! how they drank! and
what a grand feed they had on the herbage (TRICHINIUM ALOPECUROIDEUM) on
the banks of the lagoon! Charlie and I spent the afternoon in further
exploring our surroundings, and on return to camp found our mates busily
engaged in plucking some teal and waterhen which they had shot. The
latter were numerous, and Godfrey at one shot bagged nine. They are
almost identical in size and appearance with our British waterhen, though
they seem to have less power of flight, thus enabling us to drive them
from one gun to the other, and so secure a fine lot for the pot. I doubt
if in civilisation they would be considered good eating, but after tinned
horrors they were a perfect delicacy. The teal were as numerous; but
though there were several emu tracks we saw none of those queer birds.
Our bag for three days was seventeen teal, twelve waterhen, one pigeon.
The natives whose smoke we had seen, disappeared shortly after our
arrival. Godfrey, whilst shooting, came across their camp; the occupants,
a man, woman, and child, fled as soon as they caught sight of him,
leaving a shield behind them, and did not appear again. This small oasis
deserves particular attention, for it is bound to play an important part
in any scheme of a stock route from the cattle-stations of Central
Australia to the Murchison or Coolgardie Goldfields.

There are three lagoons (or deep clay-pans) connected by a shallow, sandy
channel. They are entirely surrounded by sandhills, excepting at one
spot, where a narrow creek breaks through the sand-ridge. Of the three
the largest and most South-Westerly one is nearly circular, and has a
diameter of 600 yards with a depth varying from 1 ft. 6 in. to 4 ft. 6
in. It is capable of holding considerably more water than we saw in it.
The bottom is of rock, a sort of cement in which ironstone is visible in
the middle, and of clay near the edges. From the N.W. a narrow channel
enters, traceable for a distance of two miles to a cane-grass swamp; into
this, small watercourses, and the tail end of a larger creek lead.

Following up this flat, it will be found to develop into a defined
channel running through a grassy flat timbered with bloodwoods (a kind of
eucalyptus). This creek rises in the sandstone tablelands to the N. of
Mount Allott, and in it at its head, is situated Alexander Spring
(Forrest. 1874).

Round the foot of these hills, extending to the lagoon, is a fine little
plain of grass, saltbush, and numerous low shrubs, all excellent feed for
stock. Mounts Allott and Worsnop are certainly remarkable hills, perhaps
200 feet above the surrounding country, quite flat on the top, which is
covered with scrub. From the latter the lagoon is visible, one mile
distant on bearing 150 degrees. Our camp at the lagoon was in lat. 26
degrees 10 minutes, long. 124 degrees 48 minutes. This reckoning placed
Alexander Spring in a position agreeing very closely with that given it
by Forrest, which was very gratifying to me. This water was marked by
Forrest as "permanent." He says in his journal: "July 13th . . . Fine
water at this place. I have no doubt water is always here. I named it
Alexander Spring after my brother, who discovered it. Abundance of water
also in rock-holes." This was in 1874. Since that date this spot has been
revisited, first and not long after Forrest, by W. W. Mills, who was
commissioned to bring over a mob of camels from South Australia. He
followed Forrest's track from water to water, at first with no
difficulty; depending on Alexander Spring, he made a longish dry stage,
reached the spring only to find it dry, and had a bad time in
consequence. The second party to follow Forrest's route was that of
Carr-Boyd in 1896, whom Breaden accompanied, and who was prospecting for
an Adelaide syndicate. They passed by this spot, but having plenty of
water, as it was raining at the time, did not visit the spring. From
Mount Worsnop, Woodhouse, one of the party, sighted the lagoon; but
neither he nor any of the party had troubled to see whether it was
salt or fresh, or of what extent it was. I have named it after
Woodhouse, who first saw it. Breaden had told me of the fact of his
having seen it, but I had supposed that, as rain was falling, Woodhouse
was only looking on a shallow pool that could by no possibility hold
water for long.

Shortly after Carr-Boyd, there followed Hubbe's party. He was sent out by
the South Australian Government to follow Forrest's route, to ascertain
its suitability or otherwise for a stock route. Hubbe found the spring
dry, or practically so, and was much disappointed. He did not happen to
find the lagoon, and had a long stage before he found water. His party
arrived at Menzies shortly before we started. I was unable to get any
information from him beyond the opinion that the country was worthless
and a stock route impracticable. I put more faith, however, in Breaden,
whose life has been spent amongst stock and travelling cattle. When with
Carr-Boyd he came to the conclusion that as far as the Warburton Range
cattle could be taken without much trouble; and indeed in 1873, so I have
read, Gosse drove some bullocks as far as that point, which was the
furthest west he penetrated when attempting to cross the Colony.

From the Warburton Range to Lake Wells the awkward part came in, but now
this lagoon and the Empress Spring go far to bridge it over. I have no
doubt that a fortnight's work at both these places would be sufficient to
make splendid wells, supposing that the lagoon was found dry and the
spring too hard to get at. At the expenditure of no great amount I feel
confident that a serviceable stock route could be formed, easily
negotiated in the winter months and kept open by wells during the rest of
the year. The country through which the route would pass is excellent as
far as the border. From there it would be necessary to hit off the small
oases which are met with near Mount Squires, Warburton Ranges, Blyth
Creek, and Alexander Spring. From this point the route could be taken to
Empress Spring, thence to Lake Wells (or direct to Lake Wells) and the
Bonython Creek, and from there to Lake Darlot there would be no
difficulty. The only really bad bit of the route would be between
Woodhouse Lagoon and Lake Wells, and this is no great distance. Whether
the scheme would be worth the expenditure necessary to equip a really
serviceable well-sinking party I am unable to judge; but it seems to me
that it would be a tremendous advantage to Central Australian cattle
owners to be able to drive their bullocks direct to the West Australian
goldfields, even though they could only do so in the winter, at which
season alone it is probable that the feed would be sufficiently good. The
fact that Forrest with his horses traversed this route is evidence enough
that at some seasons certain surface waters exist at no great distances
apart--in some cases large supplies. For cattle to follow the route that
we had come so far would be manifestly absurd, and these remarks,
especially where the country between Woodhouse Lagoon and Lake Wells, and
between that lake and Lake Darlot is discussed, are made with the further
knowledge of these regions that our return journey gave us.

It seems a remarkable fact that while a spring should be found dry, not
five miles from it a fresh-water lagoon with millions of gallons in it
should exist. In the first place Alexander Spring is no spring; Sir John
Forrest told me himself that at the time of naming it he was very
doubtful. Hubbe dug it out to bedrock and proved it to be merely a local
soakage in the gravelly bed of a narrow gully. Now a heavy downpour
sufficient to run the creek and fill the lagoon must certainly first fill
the spring and neighbouring pools. But the water in the spring would soon
evaporate, whilst the depth and area of the lagoon would save its
contents from diminishing from this cause, for a much longer period. So
that after all it is easily understandable that we should find the lagoon
full and the so-called spring dry.

Near the foot of Mount Allott we found Hubbe's camp, and in it several
straps and hobble-chains; two tin-lined packing cases had been left
behind, and from them we took the lids, not quite knowing to what use we
could put them, but yet feeling they might be serviceable; and indeed
they were.

On the summit of the hill Forrest had raised a cairn of stones; this had
been pulled down by the natives and subsequently replaced by Hubbe. The
blacks had again started to take it to pieces; I rebuilt what they had
removed and placed on the cairn a board on which I wrote directions to
the lagoon, in case any other traveller should pass.

By the side of the little creek to the North-West of the hill a bloodwood
tree has been marked on one side with the number of Mills's camp, and on
the other with a record of the objects of Hubbe's expedition, S.R.
standing presumably for "Stock Route."

The flat on which these trees are growing is, in my opinion, a very
likely spot for finding water by sinking.

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