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Home -> David W Carnegie -> Spinifex and Sand -> Part 6 Chapter 9

Spinifex and Sand - Part 6 Chapter 9

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



Four attempted crossings ended in the hopeless bogging of horses and
camels, entailing the carrying of loads and saddles. At last we could not
get them to face the task at all; and small wonder, for floundering about
in soft, sticky mud is at least unpleasant! I am pretty confident that we
could have managed to get the camels through somehow, but the horses were
far too weak to struggle. Poor old Highlander sank to his belly,
struggled for a minute just long enough to get further engulfed, and then
threw up the sponge and lay panting until we came to his rescue. We had a
job to get him to the shore, and only succeeded by digging out two legs
on one side, putting a rope round them, then the same on the other, and
by violent efforts dragged him on to his side. Then, one at his head and
the rest on his legs, we turned him over and over until we came on firmer
ground, when we put the ropes on his legs again and by main force hauled
him on his flank to the margin of the lake, where he lay half dead. The
others fared but little better; it was evident that a crossing could not
be effected except at the cost of the horses.

From a sandhill near our camp numerous hills could be seen, the more
prominent of which I named. To the West-North-West a table-top hill
(Mount Courtenay, after my brother-in-law) standing in front of a
prominent tableland; to the northward Mount Lancelot; to the
East-South-East a line of cliffs standing above stony rises, at the
southern end a bluff point (Point Katharine, after my sister); and eight
miles to the South-South-West, two flat-topped hills, close
together--these I named Mount Dora and Mount Elisabeth after two of my
sisters. Little did I think that I was never to see again the dear face
of one of them! As a last hope, I and Breaden went across the lake to
these hills to look for a break in the swamps. From Mount Elisabeth an
extensive view can be obtained, but no signs of the lake coming to an
end. From Mount Elisabeth, which, by the way, is of quartzite, I took the
following bearings: Mount Courtenay 331 degrees, Mount Lancelot 23
degrees, Point Katharine, 78 degrees. To the West numerous broken
tablelands can be seen, and the same to the South. Clearly there was no
chance of crossing this lake or rounding it on the North, for the white
streak of salt could be seen for miles and miles in that direction. There
was nothing to be done but to skirt the edge of the lake, and if
connected with Lake Wells to skirt that too, until a crossing could be
found. So we loaded up and steered East and then South-East to round the
swamps. Due West of Point Katharine, four miles distant, we found a large
freshwater lagoon surrounded by stony banks and ridges. It contained only
a few inches of water, but is capable of holding it to a depth of six
feet. Beyond it is a stony cotton-bush flat, and on it numerous white
clay-holes of water, almost hidden by the herbage.

Water-hens were so numerous that we could not pass by so good an
opportunity, and camped early in consequence, spending the rest of the
day in shooting these birds. The rest was a good thing for Breaden, too,
who had been hurt by Kruger as he struggled in the salt-bog. The next
morning we struck South, and by night found the lake again in our way.
From a high bank of rocks and stones we could see the arm that had first
blocked us, running round the foot of the hills and joining a larger lake
which spread before us to the South. Across it some high, broken
tablelands could be seen. There was no doubt from our position that this
was Lake Wells, but I had expected to find a tableland (the Van Treuer of
Wells) fringing the Northern shore. However, the Van Treuer does not run
nearly so far East as Wells supposed when he sighted it from the South.
No crossing could be effected yet, so the next day we continued along the
margin of the lake, along a narrow strip of salt-bush country hemmed in
between the lake and sandhills. On July 2nd we found the narrow place
where Wells had crossed in 1892; the tracks of his camels were still
visible in the soft ground. The crossing being narrow, and the bog
shallow--no more than a few inches above a hard bed of rock--we had no
trouble whatever.

We now followed the same course as Wells had done, passing Lyell-Brown
Bluff--from which Mount Elisabeth bears 339 degrees--and Parson's Bluff,
eventually striking the Bonython Creek. This, as described by Wells, is a
flat, shallow, and, in places, but ill-defined watercourse. In it are one
or two good deep pools, of which one is probably permanent. Fringing the
banks is a narrow strip of salt-bush and grass; beyond that mulga and
coarse grass. This narrow belt of good country continues down to the
lake, and as we saw it just after the rain looked fresh and green. There
is no extent, but sufficient to form a good resting-place for travelling
stock. Some cattle-tracks of recent date were visible, a small wild herd
of stragglers probably from the Gascoyne. Turkeys were seen in fair
numbers, but they were the shyest birds I have ever come across--so much
so that we never got a shot. The late rain had left so many pools and
puddles that we had no chance of waiting for them at their
watering-place. One of the wild cattle beasts, amongst which must be a
bull, for we saw tracks of quite young calves, would have been very
acceptable, for our meat had come to an end. In consequence we wasted no
time in further examining the Bonython, but made tracks for Lake Darlot.
The days were getting so short now that, in order to accomplish a good
stage, we had to rise long before daylight and collect the camels and
horses, following their tracks by means of a fire-stick. In this way we
were enabled to get a start at sunrise, having breakfasted--in

Several parties of prospectors have been to Lake Wells, and at first we
followed a regular pad; however, it did not seem to be going very direct,
so we left it. Between Lake Wells and Lake Darlot--a distance of about
130 miles--the country consists of open mulga thickets with a coarse
undergrowth of grass, alternating with spinifex desert and sand.
Occasional low cliffs and ridges occur, and nearer Lake Darlot numerous
ranges, from which the Erlistoun Creek takes its rise. Amongst these
hills we saw the first auriferous country since leaving the vicinity of
Hall's Creek, and in the Erlistoun the first permanent water (probably)
since leaving the Sturt Creek, a distance of about 800 miles. A narrow
belt of grass and salt-bush fringes the Erlistoun, and in the winter looks
healthy and succulent; however, a few months soon alters that, and in the
summer all is parched and yellow. How pleasant it was to see such
country, after the dreary desert! Tracks and roads were now numerous as
we approached civilisation. The same lake lay between us and the
settlement that had caused Conley, Egan, and myself so much trouble in
former days. Choosing the same narrow channel where I had formerly
crossed, we managed very fairly well. Most of the camels bogged, but some
did not, nor did the horses, and our loads now consisted of little else
but the saddles, and were therefore no great weight to carry. The weather
was lovely now, bright warm days and frosty nights; unfortunately this
tends to sharpen the appetite, which we had small means of satisfying.
For the last ten days we had had nothing but damper, and not much of
that, on which we spread tinned milk which had previously been discarded
as unfit for use, being dark brown instead of white, and almost solid.
Nevertheless it was better than nothing; a ten hours' march, begun on an
empty stomach, and finished on a slice of bread, cannot be indulged in
for many days before it leaves its mark. We were not sorry, therefore, to
reach Lake Darlot township on July 15th, and, choosing a nice spot, made
camp. This day we saw the first white face since April 9th, and our
journey was practically over.

The excellent feed growing all over the flats near Lake Darlot gave us a
good opportunity of recruiting our animals' strength. For nearly a month
we moved slowly about between Lake Darlot and Lawlers prospecting in a
desultory sort of way. Our departure from the former place was deeply
regretted--by the butcher, whose trade had increased by leaps and bounds
during our stay. "I never see'd coves as could stack mutton like you
chaps," he said, in satisfied wonder; "why, a whole blooming sheep don't
seem to last you a day; can't ye stop until I get some bullocks up the
track?" Certainly that was the best fresh mutton I have ever tasted, and
no doubt we DID do our duty by it.

By degrees the camels fattened and fattened, until the combination of
flesh and the hard muscles their work had formed, made it difficult to
believe how great the trials were they had been through. The horses were
also getting less like skeletons, though they take far longer than camels
to regain their strength; as a rule, if they have been through great
hardships they never do regain it and are, practically, useless
afterwards. Stoddy, whose back had been bad, was also recovering--this
the only sore back amongst them after so many miles of country well
calculated to knock both packs and backs to pieces.

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