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western settlement was abandoned ; and an expedition, called the Northern Exploring Expedition, was formed by the united assistance of the Government and the colonists. Mr. Eyre, the late Governor of St. Vincent, was then a settler in the colony of South Australia. He had already gained considerable experience as an explorer, both in New South Wales and in its new dependency, the Port Phillip district, as Sir Thomas Mitchell's Australia Felix soon came to be called. More recently he had made some incursions into the country to the north of Adelaide, and, on the opposite shore of Spencer Gulf, in the Port Lincoln district; and to him was entrusted the command of the expedition. He was to ascertain the extent and nature of Lake Torrens. A range of hills, called Flinders Range, ran from Adelaide northwards ; they might lead to a change of country, or feed some inland stream. And, if possible, he was to penetrate to the centre of the continent.
The centre of the continent this expedition was fated never to reach; nor even to cross to the opposite shores of Lake Torrens. Its steps we shall have to follow in a widely different direction. Of Lake Torrens, however, we may say that its southern shores were now found desolate and dreary in the extreme. The lake itself was about twenty miles broad, covered with a thick coating of salt, which had all the appearance of freshly fallen snow. Under this salt was found a bed of soft mud, becoming so deep towards mid-channel as to frustrate all their efforts to cross the lake. On maps of Australia, Lake Torrens figures very much in the shape of a horseshoe. The appearances observed by Mr. Eyre on the present occasion at four different points on its western arm, together with some researches of Captain Sturt, on its supposed eastern arm, on an exploring expedition to which we shall presently come, are the principal grounds for this view of the Torrens basin. More recently, however, it has been ascertained that what was known as Lake Torrens is not one, but several lakes-- in fact, a semicircular chain of lakes, or mud ponds; and that, more curiously still, a portion of its western arm is the terminus of a river, which takes its rise on the East Coast of the continent, some 1,500 miles distant. At present, however, we have to follow the strange adventures of Mr. Eyre.
Abandoning Lake Torrens, he threw himself entirely upon Flinder's Range, hoping that the slopes of its hills would furnish sufficient water to his party in their progress northward. But hill after hill grew smaller and less frequent, and gradually the country settled down into a desolate level. One peak still rose from the plain, and from this, named by him Mount Hopeless, he determined to take a last observation. Without water or food for the horses, and through a low sandy country, his party bore down on Mount Hopeless, and ascended to its summit. And cheerless and hopeless, indeed,' he writes, 'was the prospect
before us. As he had feared, all trace of Flinder's Range now ceased, and before him lay a wide desolate level, interrupted only by the ridge forming the shore of the still more gloomy lake. This ridge of the lake, which, at each point of previous observation, had been bending round from west to east, now appeared on his right hand. Supposing, therefore, that his only means of escape from this apparently uninterrupted semicircular basin was by descending to either of its southern extremities, he returned to the head of Spencer Gulf, where a narrow isthmus separates the waters of the gulf from Lake Torrens, and crossed into the Port Lincoln district, intending to resume his northern course when sufficiently clear of the lake. Repeated attempts, however, proved the impracticability of forcing a passage northward from this portion of the coast. At every point, when advancing a few miles inland, impenetrable scrub, and a total absence of water and food for the cattle, drove the expedition back. Nor did it appear an easier task to advance along the coast itself. Leaving the main portion of his men at Fowler's Bay, Mr. Eyre made three several attempts to reach the Great Bight, hoping that, after passing that portion of the coast, the country would be found to open up more favourably inland. But, after encountering great hardships and the loss of several of his horses, he rounded the Great Bight only to behold the same impenetrable country. The objects proposed for the Northern Exploring Expedition seemed, therefore, impossible of attainment; and Mr. Eyre, on his return to Fowler's Bay, sent the men composing it back to Adelaide. Mr. Eyre himself we have now to follow through a feat the most wonderful in the whole annals of exploration.
We have already mentioned that the rich pastures of King George's Sound and Swan River had been the subject of discussion in Adelaide. They lay at the extremity of the South Coast, but was it likely that they were confined to the extremity of the South Coast? Was it likely that a coast district, 1,500 miles long, was absolutely barren ? An explorer would be certain to meet good intermediate districts, and good intermediate districts would bring the whole of the North-West Coast within reach of the Adelaide flockowner. The northern route had been adopted at Mr. Eyre's own request, enforced by his own experience in the Port Lincoln district. His present excursions to the head of the Great Bight proved the difficulties of a western route along the coast to be far greater than he had urged upon the Exploration Committee in Adelaide ; but Mr. Eyre now determined to take up the western route, and to force a passage to King George's Sound.
The South Coast, from Fowler's Bay to King George's Sound, lay as Captain Flinders had sketched it from his ship. Indeed, down to the present time, Mr. Eyre himself is the solitary white man who has trod its desolate wilds. From the summit of the cliffs, which had frowned down on the topmasts of H.M.S. • Investigator,' stretched inland a table-land without rise or fall, until a dense and impenetrable skirting of scrub hid it from sight. This table-land Mr. Eyre had now ascertained to be an unbroken sheet of limestone. At the bottom of the cliffs the action of the current had hollowed out immense caverns; and, occasionally, huge portions of the rock became detached and tumbled into the ocean, showing by the rapidity with they were engulfed the hopelessness of finding any path by the margin of the sea. Inland, the country seemed equally unpromising, and the only portion capable of sustaining animal existence was a narrow strip extending along the edge of the table-land, overlooking the sea. Here the action of the wind had collected some scattered heaps of sand, on which grew a few tufts of sour grass and salsolaceous herbs. But already.from Fowler's Bay to the head of the Great Bight, neither lake, pond, nor stream had been discovered ; and we may now say that from Fowler's Bay to King George's Sound, a distance of upwards of 1,500 miles, no vestige of a watercourse, nor any surface-lake, or pond was met. During the day, a strong wind blows from the interior, sometimes scorching in its heat, and loaded with fine sand.
Towards evening, this is met by a chilling breeze, coming up from the great Southern Ocean; and doubtless to the action of those two winds is to be attributed the deposition of sand on the limestone surface along the edge of this exposed table-land. Occasionally, at intervals of 150 and 200 miles, the sand had been formed into a cluster of hills, and on digging down to the limestone, at these places, a little brackish water was found to ooze out between the sand and the rock. Strange as it may seem, this was the only water at all approaching fresh, which could be discovered along the whole course of this terrible journey.
In undertaking this most forbidding task, Mr. Eyre had determined to risk the life of no European save himself. The men composing the North Exploring Expedition had, therefore, been sent back to Adelaide. But the overseer of the party, a servant long in the employment of Mr. Eyre, and a man of great energy and courage, refused to leave his master, and Mr. Eyre at length consented to accept his assistance. In addition, he retained two aboriginal young men, who had been some time in his service on his farm, and a third aboriginal, named Wylie, a native of King George's Sound, who had lately arrived in Adelaide in a vessel which had touched there. With these, Mr. Eyre commenced making some necessary preparations, and giving his horses rest before finally leaving Fowler's Bay. He had informed the Governor, by letter, of the resolution which he had formed, but, in addition, the officers and men of the disbanded expedition made known, on their return to Adelaide, the great difficulties which Mr. Eyre had already experienced in his several efforts to round the Great Bight, and the singularly unpromising nature of the country beyond its head. From these it appeared that Mr. Eyre was advancing on certain destruction, and a Government sloop was immediately despatched to Fowler's Bay with a strong recommendation from the Governor to return, accompanied by an official approval of his conduct as leader of the late Northern Exploring Expedition. But Mr. Eyre's resolution was not to be changed, and the sloop returned to Adelaide without him. We were now alone,' he writes, 'myself, my overseer, and the three native boys, with a • fearful task before us. The bridge was broken down behind ' us, and we must succeed in reaching King George's Sound, or * perish. No middle course remained. Having constructed bags to hold water, and having given the cattle sufficient rest, Mr. Eyre commenced his journey. His stock of provisions then consisted of some sheep remaining over from the disbanded expedition, and a few bags of flour. The head of the Great Bight was again rounded, and the same forbidding nature of country was found to extend along its western arm — the only vegetation being a few scattered tufts of grass, and the only water being procured from beneath the sandhills, occurring at intervals of 100 and 200 miles.
That man or beast should travel through a succession of such intervals, extending over upwards of 1,500 miles, is indeed wonderful, and, we believe, wholly without parallel. Sometimes a group of sandhills occurred at the end of one or two days' march; more frequently, scarcely a blade of grass, and not a drop of water, was met for a whole week, and human endurance, taxed beyond what it might be believed possible for human endurance to sustain, was no longer supported by the hope that another group was yet in advance, or that retreat was possible. Mr. Eyre's progress during one of those long intervals between water and water, may be thus sketched. After a halt of three or four days at one of these groups of sandhills to recruit, the horses were again loaded for a fresh start, the bags were filled with water, and the sheep were led out of their pen. For two or three days the horses were able to carry the few bags of flour, water, and other necessary baggage. On the fourth day their strength began to fail, and it became necessary to lighten their loads — the rejected articles being left on the wayside. On the fifth and sixth days the horses became totally exhausted, and no exertions could force them to proceed further. Leaving them also stretched on the wayside, Mr. Eyre and his men, with the empty water-bags, hurried forward until the next group of sandhills appeared above the horizon. Arriving at these, they immediately proceeded to scoop out a well, considerable labour and delay being occasioned by the repeated falling-in of the sand. Reaching the surface of the limestone they quenched their thirst, and took a few hours' rest while the water-bags were filling. The whole party then shouldered their bags, and proceeded back to the horses ; and these they generally succeeded in bringing on by easy stages to the sandhills; though occasionally they found one of the wretched and worn-out animals in its last struggles. Having brought everything living to the water, the most laborious task yet remained. Their provisions and few indispensable articles were still strewed along their track; and, while the horses were taking some rest, it was necessary to go back and collect them, Mr. Eyre and his men carrying them on their backs a distance of sometimes forty or fifty miles. In addition to these immense labours, a further task devolved on Mr. Eyre and the overseer. The horses, though found unable to endure the same privation as the men, were, nevertheless, essential to the preservation of the party. Notwithstanding their fatigue, the want of water made them restless during the night, and, when not closely watched, they seized every opportunity to return to the last watering-placethe scattered position of the few tufts of herbage rendering it impossible to tether them. Nor could so important a task be safely entrusted to the two aborigines. Mr. Eyre and the overseer, therefore, agreed to divide each night between them, so as by strict watch, to ensure the possession of the horses in the morning.
In this manner Mr. Eyre and his small party had toiled on for a couple of months, and had now accomplished more than half their journey, when an appalling act of treachery plunged him in fresh difficulties, and seemed to render his ultimate escape hopeless. In the midst of one of these long stages between water and water, they had encamped for the night, and Mr. Eyre had