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Home -> David W Carnegie -> Spinifex and Sand -> Part 5 Chapter 10

Spinifex and Sand - Part 5 Chapter 10

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



My position for Family Well is lat. 22 degrees 40 minutes, long. 125
degrees 54 minutes. The well, as already stated, is situated at the foot
of the southern slope of a high sand-ridge. This ridge is the first of a
series of parallel banks of sand which extend, with occasional breaks,
from lat. 22 degrees 41 minutes to 19 degrees 20 minutes--a distance of
nearly 250 miles in a straight line. From September 16th to November 16th
we were never out of sight of a sand ridge, and during that time travelled
420 miles, taking into account all deviations consequent upon steering for
smokes and tracking up natives, giving an average of not quite seven miles
a day, including stoppages. This ghastly desert is somewhat broken in its
northern portion by the occurrence of sandstone tablelands, the Southesk
Tablelands; the southern part, however, viz., from lat. 22 degrees 41
minutes to lat. 20 degrees 45 minutes presents nothing to the eye but
ridge upon ridge of sand, running with the regularity of the drills in a
ploughed field. A vast, howling wilderness of high, spinifex-clad ridges
of red sand, so close together that in a day's march we crossed from sixty
to eighty ridges, so steep that often the camels had to crest them on
their knees, and so barren and destitute of vegetation (saving spinifex)
that one marvels how even camels could pick up a living. I estimate their
average vertical height from trough to crest at fifty to sixty feet. Some
were mere rises, whilst others reached a height of considerably over one
hundred feet. Sometimes the ridges would be a quarter of a mile apart,
and sometimes ridge succeeded ridge like the waves of the sea. On October
3rd, for instance, I find that we were crossing them at a rate of ten in
forty minutes. This gives a result of 105 ridges to be negotiated in a
day's march of seven hours. Riding was almost impossible in such country
as this, for all our energies were required to urge on the poor camels.
All through, we adhered to the same plan as before, viz., doing our day's
march without a halt (excepting of course the numerous stoppages entailed
by broken nose-lines, the disarrangement of a pack, or the collapse of a
camel), having no food or water from daylight until camping-time. This,
without our previous training, would have been an almost impossible task,
for each ridge had to be climbed--there was no going round them or
picking out a low place, no tacking up the slope--straight ahead, up one
side, near the top a wrench and a snap, down goes a camel, away go the
nose-lines, a blow for the first and a knot for the second, over the
crest and down, then a few paces of flat going, then up again and down
again, and so on day after day. The heat was excessive--practically there
was no shade.

The difficulties of our journey were increased by the necessity of
crossing the ridges almost at right angles. With almost heart-breaking
regularity they kept their general trend of E. by N. and W. by S.,
causing us from our Northerly course to travel day after day against the
grain of the country. An Easterly or Westerly course would have been
infinitely less laborious, as in that case we could have travelled along
the bottom of the trough between two ridges for a great distance before
having to cross over any. The troughs and waves seem to be corrugations
in the surface of greater undulations; for during a day's march or so, on
reaching the top of one ridge, our view forwards was limited to the next
ridge, until a certain point was reached, from which we could see in
either direction; and from this point onwards the ridges sank before us
for a nearly equal distance, and then again they rose, each ridge higher
than the last. Words can give no conception of the ghastly desolation and
hopeless dreariness of the scene which meets one's eyes from the crest of
a high ridge. The barren appearance of the sand is only intensified by
the few sickly and shrunken gums that are dotted over it. In the troughs
occasional clumps of shrubs, or scrubs, [e.g., Mulga (ACACIA ANAEURA),
grevillea, hakea, ti-tree (MELALEUCA) and in the northern portion desert
oaks (CASUARINA DESCAINEANA)] or small trees are met with, and everywhere
are scattered tussocks of spinifex. True it is, though, that even this
poverty-stricken plant has its uses, for it serves to bind the sand and
keep the ridges, for the most part, compact. Where spinifex does not
grow, for instance on the tops of the ridges, one realises how impossible
a task it would be to travel for long over banks of loose sand.

I find that my estimate for the average height of the sand-ridges is
considerably lower than that of Colonel Warburton. It is interesting,
therefore, to compare his account of these ridges, though it must be
remembered that Colonel Warburton was travelling on a westerly course,
and we from our northerly direction only traversed country previously
seen by him, for the short distance that our sight would command, at the
point of intersection of our two tracks. In an editorial note in his book
we read:--

"They varied considerably both in their size and in their distance from
each other, but eighty feet may be regarded as an average in the former
respect and three hundred yards in the latter.

"They ran parallel to each other in an East and West direction, so that
while pursuing either of these courses the travellers kept in the
valleys, formed by two of them, and got along without much exertion. It
was when it became necessary to cross them at a great angle that the
strain on the camels proved severe, for on the slopes their feet sank
deeply into the sand, and their labours were most distressing to

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