THE END OF THE EXPEDITION
By easy stages and frequent halts we eventually reached Coolgardie, after
an absence of thirteen months. Of these, ten and a half months were
occupied in travelling, during which we traversed a little over three
thousand miles. Of this, 550 miles was traversed by roads and tracks,
whilst the remainder was through country beyond the limits of any
SOURCES OF WATER SUPPLY.
FOUND ON UPGOING AND RETURN JOURNEYS BETWEEN THE LIMITS OF SETTLEMENT.
Holding Nearly Quite
Water. Dry. Dry.
Springs 2 1 Helena, Empress, and Alexander.
Creeks 9 * Including Christmas, Janet, Mary,
Margaret, and Sturt in Kimberley;
Blyth,+ Bonython,+ Erlistoun.
Clay-pans 2 4
in gorges 8 **
Rock-holes 3 3 21 Of these 4 were completely drained,
and 2 left with water.
Native Wells 8 3 22 Of these 6 were completely drained,
and 5 left with water.
* Numerous small dry watercourses were seen.
** Numerous dry pools in rocky gorges were seen.
+ The only two in the desert area.
TABLE SHOWING CHARACTER AND EXTENT OF COUNTRY TRAVERSED.
Upgoing Return Total in
Journey. Journey. Miles.
From edge of desert
to Woodhouse Lagoon 220 MIXED COUNTRY including
From Woodhouse Lagoon low sandhills, spinifex
to edge of desert 260 plain. Desert Gum flats
From end of Sturt Creek with occasional scrubs
to Gordon Hills 50 and patches of grass
From Woodhouse Lagoon UNDULATING DESERT of
to Family Well 370 spinifex, stones, and
From Deep Rock-holes gravel, with occasional
to Woodhouse Lagoon 210 scrubs.
From Family Well
to Mount Bannerman 420 SAND-RIDGES. Desert of
From Gordon Hills sand blown into
to Deep Rock-holes 450 parallel ridges running
---- 870 on an average course of
East and West, varying
in height from
From Cutmore's Well
to edge of desert. 100 COUNTRY OTHER THAN
From Mount Bannerman DESERT, including open
to Hall's Creek 150 scrubs with grass, open
From Hall's Creek grass plains, belts of
to end of Sturt Creek 160 grass fringing river
From edge of desert banks, small oases,
to Lake Darlot 50 and hilly country.
Oases (Helena Spring,
Lake Wells, &c.) 10
550 By roads and tracks.
* Of which 2,210 were through country unmapped except where routes of
previous explorers were crossed.
** Total mileage in round numbers, taking into account all deviations.
From the above table it will be seen that the greater part of the
interior of the Colony seen by us is absolutely useless to man or beast.
It is possible that between the Lake Darlot goldfield and the 25th
parallel of latitude isolated areas of auriferous country may be found,
though nothing that we saw proves this to be likely; and I base my
opinion only on the facts that quartz and ironstone are known to occur in
the vicinity of Lake Augusta and the Warburton Range. It is also possible
(and this I have already discussed) that a travelling route for stock may
be formed from South Australia along the 26th parallel as far as Mounts
Allott and Worsnop, and thence VIA Lake Wells and the Bonython Creek. to
the Erlistoun Creek and Lake Darlot.
Failing either the finding of gold, or the formation of a stock route
from oasis to oasis, I can see no use whatever to which this part of the
interior can be put.
North of the 25th parallel the country is absolutely useless until the
confines of the Kimberley district (about lat. 19 degrees) are reached.
That a stock route through the desert is quite impracticable we have
clearly demonstrated. Even supposing that there was any water supply,
there is no feed; nothing but spinifex grows in more than wee patches at
very long intervals. As any one who has followed me through this book can
see, our water supply was most precarious, depending as we did upon
rock-holes and native wells (which at any time may be found dry), and
these yielded an only just sufficient quantity to keep no more than nine
camels from dying for want of a drink--every well that we found, with the
exception of one or two, was drained and left empty. Indeed on our two
journeys there are only two watering-places on which I should care to
depend, viz., the Empress Spring and Helena Spring. Throughout our journey
we never once found water by chance--though chance took us to more than
one dry hole--but found it only by systematic and patient work, involving
many scores of miles of tracking, the capture of the wild aboriginals, and
endless hours of manual labour. Without having resorted to these
expedients I have no hesitation in saying that neither we nor the camels
would be living today, for though without having done so, other parties
have crossed as great an extent of arid country, it must be remembered
that our journey was accomplished through infinitely worse country, and
with a party exactly half as large as the smallest of the previous
expeditions across the interior. Where, with a large number of camels, it
would be possible to carry a great quantity of water and do long stages,
using the water for camels as well as men, with a small number such
tactics as going straight ahead, and trusting to luck, could only end in
It has been my fate, in all my exploration work, to find none but useless
country, though when merely prospecting on the goldfields I have been
more fortunate. So far, therefore, as being of benefit to mankind, my
work has had no better result than to demonstrate to others, that part of
the interior that may best be avoided. No mountain ranges, no rivers, no
lakes, no pastoral lands, nor mineral districts has it brought to light;
where the country was previously unknown it has proved only its
nakedness; nevertheless I do not regret one penny of the cost or one
minute of the troubles and labours entailed by it. Nor, I am confident,
do my companions repine because they wasted so many months of their lives
in such a howling wilderness. May good fortune attend them wherever they
go; for they were brave and true men, and to them I once more express my
feelings of thanks and gratitude for their untiring energy and help
through all our journeyings. I verily believe that so large an extent of
country, good or bad, has never been travelled through by a more cheerful
party, or by one, the members of which were more in accord; and to the
unanimity, and ready co-operation that prevailed throughout the camp, the
successful issue of the expedition must in a large degree be ascribed.
Before leaving Coolgardie I had to perform the melancholy task of selling
off my camels and all belongings. I have seldom felt anything so deeply
as the breaking up of our little band, and the sale of my faithful
animals. However, it was a matter of necessity, for much as I wished to
pension off my favourites I was not in a position to do so, and
eventually made my exit from the Colony in much the same state as that in
which I arrived.
Before leaving for home I spent some time in Perth, where the
Surveyor-General, Mr. Johnston, did all in his power to assist me in the
preparation of plans and maps. These, together with all information I had
gathered, I placed at the disposal of the Government, for which they were
pleased to express many thanks. At a gathering in the Perth Town Hall, at
which I was present on the day of my departure, Sir John Forrest, the
Premier, proposed the toast of the guest and said many kind things, to
which I replied: ". . . I regret that I am only able to give such a bad
report of the far interior of this Colony; but even so, and even though
it has not been our fortune to discover any country useful either to the
pastoralist or miner, yet I hope we have done good service in proving the
nature of a large tract of country previously unknown. Our late journey
will, I think, give an answer to the oft-repeated question, "Does the
gold-belt extend in a direct line from Coolgardie to Kimberley?" and the
answer is in the negative. At least we have demonstrated the uselessness
of any persons wasting their time and money in farther investigation of
that desolate region. Such an expedition might be undertaken for
pleasure, but this I should not recommend, for few countries present such
difficulties of travel or such monotony of scenery or occupation.
Although I am leaving this country, probably for good, I would not wish
it to be thought that I have no faith in it, for the late developments
and marvellous returns from the goldfields should convert the most
sceptical. Nor have the other sources of wealth to the Colony failed to
impress their importance on me. . . Every one is glad to return to his
home, and I am no exception; but however happy I am at the prospect of
again seeing my native land, yet I cannot say goodbye to the numerous
friends I have been fortunate in making in this Colony without sincere
feelings of regret. Every day the Old Country, which we are all proud to
call Home, and the New are learning to understand each other better, and
the bond of friendship between them is ever strengthening. If I have been
able to promote these feelings in however small a degree, and have been
able to show that the Home-born is still able, and willing, to take his
share in the pioneer work of this continent of Australia, as his fathers
were before him, then I have not worked in vain."