HORSES BEGIN TO KNOCK UP—COMPELLED TO FOLLOW ROUND THE BEACH—TINOR PONY UNABLE TO PROCEED—GLOOMY PROSPECTS—OVERSEER BEGINS TO DESPOND—TWO MORE HORSES LEFT BEHIND—FRAGMENTS OF WRECKS—WATER ALL CONSUMED—COLLECT DEW—CHANGE IN CHARACTER OF COUNTRY—DIG A WELL—PROCURE WATER—NATIVE AND FAMILY VISIT US—OVERSEER GOES BACK FOR BAGGAGE—DISASTROUS TERMINATION OF HIS JOURNEY—SITUATION AND PROSPECTS OF THE PARTY.
March 28.—AT daylight we moved on, every one walking, even the youngest boy could not ride now, as the horses were so weak and jaded. Soon after leaving the camp, one of them laid down, although the weight upon his back was very light; we were consequently obliged to distribute the few things he carried among the others, and let him follow loose. Our route lay along the beach, as the dense scrub inland prevented us from following any other course; we had, therefore, to go far out of our way, tracing round every point, and following along every bay, whilst the sea-weed frequently obstructed our path, and drove us again to the loose sands, above high water mark, causing extra fatigue to our unfortunate horses. At other times we were forced to go between these banks of sea-weed and the sea, into the sea itself, on which occasions it required our utmost vigilance to prevent the wretched horses from drinking the salt water, which would inevitably have destroyed them. In order to prevent this we were obliged to walk ourselves in the water, on the sea-side of them, one of the party being in advance, leading one horse, another being behind to keep up the rear, and the other three being at intervals along the outside of the line, to keep them from stopping for an instant until the danger was past.
We had scarcely advanced six miles from our last night's camp when the little Timor pony I had purchased at Port Lincoln broke down completely; for some time it had been weak, and we were obliged to drive it loose, but it was now unable to proceed further, and we were compelled to abandon it to a miserable and certain death, that by pushing on, we might use every exertion in our power to relieve the others, though scarcely daring to hope that we could save even one of them. It was, indeed, a fearful and heart-rending scene to behold the noble animals which had served us so long and so faithfully, suffering the extremity of thirst and hunger, without having it in our power to relieve them. Five days of misery had passed over their heads since the last water had been left, and one hundred and twelve miles of country had been traversed without the possibility of procuring food for them, other than the dry and sapless remains of last year's grass, and this but rarely to be met with. No rains had fallen to refresh them, and they were reduced to a most pitiable condition, still they travelled onwards, with a spirit and endurance truly surprising. Whenever we halted, they followed us about like dogs wherever we went, appearing to look to us only for aid, and exhibiting that confidence in us which I trust we all reposed in the Almighty, for most truly did we feel, that in His mercy and protection alone our safety could now ever be hoped for.
About ten o'clock the tide became too high for us to keep the beach, and we were compelled to halt for some hours. Our horses were nearly all exhausted, and I dreaded that when we next moved on many of them would be unable to proceed far, and that, one by one, they would all perish, overcome by sufferings which those, who have not witnessed such scenes, can have no conception of. We should then have been entirely dependent upon our own strength and exertions, nearly midway between Adelaide and King George's Sound, with a fearful country on either side of us, with a very small supply of provisions, and without water.
The position we were in, frequently forced sad forebodings with respect to the future, and though I by no means contemplated with apathy the probable fate that might await us, yet I was never for a moment undecided as to the plan it would be necessary to adopt, in such a desperate extremity—at all hazards, I was determined to proceed onwards.
The country we had already passed through, precluded all hope of our recrossing it without the horses to carry water for us, and without provisions to enable us to endure the dreadful fatigue of forced marches, across the desert. The country before us was, it is true, quite unknown, but it could hardly be worse than that we had traversed, and the chance was that it might be better. We were now pushing on for some sand-hills, marked down in Captain Flinders' chart at about 126 1/2 degrees of east longitude; I did not expect to procure water until we reached these, but I felt sure we should obtain it on our arrival there. After this point was passed, there appeared to be one more long push without any likelihood of procuring water, as the cliffs again became the boundary of the ocean; but beyond Cape Arid, the change in the character and appearance of the country, as described by Flinders, indicated the existence of a better and more practicable line of country than we had yet fallen in with.
My overseer, however, was now unfortunately beginning to take up an opposite opinion, and though he still went through the duty devolving upon him with assiduity and cheerfulness, it was evident that his mind was ill at ease, and that he had many gloomy anticipations of the future. He fancied there were no sand-hills ahead, that we should never reach any water in that direction, and that there was little hope of saving any of the horses. In this latter idea I rather encouraged him than otherwise, deeming it advisable to contemplate the darker side of the picture, and by accustoming ourselves to look forward to being left entirely dependent upon our own strength and efforts, in some measure to prepare ourselves for such an event, should it unfortunately befal us. In conversing with him upon our prospects, and the position we should be in if we lost all our horses, I regretted extremely to find that his mind was continually occupied with thoughts of returning, and that he seemed to think the only chance of saving our lives, would be to push on to the water ourselves, and then endeavour again to return to Fowler's Bay, where we had buried a large quantity of provisions. Still it was a gratification to find that the only European with me, did not altogether give way to despondency, and could even calmly contemplate the prospect before us, considering and reasoning upon the plan it might be best to adopt, in the event of our worst forebodings being realized. In discussing these subjects, I carefully avoiding irritating or alarming him, by a declaration of my own opinions and resolutions, rather agreeing with him than otherwise, at the same time, that I pointed out the certain risk that would attend any attempt to go back to Fowler's Bay, and the probability there was of much less danger attending the effort to advance to King George's Sound. With respect to the native boys, they appeared to think or care but little about the future; they were not sensible of their danger, and having something still to eat and drink, they played and laughed and joked with each other as much as ever.
Whilst waiting for the tide to fall, to enable us to proceed, the overseer dug a hole, and we buried nearly every thing we had with us, saddles, fire-arms, ammunition, provisions; all things were here abandoned except two guns, the keg with the little water we had left, and a very little flour, tea and sugar. I determined to relieve our horses altogether from every weight (trifling as was the weight of all we had), and by pushing, if possible, on to the water, endeavour to save their lives; after which we could return for the things we had abandoned. Our arrangements being completed, we all bathed in the sea, ate a scanty meal, and again moved onwards at half past two o'clock.
The poor horses started better than could have been expected, but it was soon evident that all were fast failing, and many already quite exhausted. At six miles my favourite mare could no longer keep up with the rest, and we were obliged to let her drop behind. Her foal, now six months old, we got away with some difficulty from her, and kept it with the other horses; at four miles further another of the horses failed, and I had him tied up, in the hope that if we reached water during the evening, I might send back and recover him.
Towards dark we all imagined we saw a long point stretching to the S. W. and backed by high sandy looking cones. We hoped that these might be the sand-hills we were pushing for, and our hearts beat high with hope once more. It, however, soon become too dark to discern anything, and at fourteen miles from where we had halted in the morning, we were again obliged by the tide to encamp for the night, as the country behind the shore was densely scrubby, and quite impracticable as a line of route. It was nine o'clock when we halted, and we were all very tired, and our feet somewhat inflamed, from getting so frequently wet with the salt water, whilst endeavouring to keep the horses from it; there was no grass but the coarse wiry kind that bound the sand together, of this the poor animals cropped a little, as a very heavy dew fell, and served to moisten it. As usual, the overseer and myself kept watch upon the horses at night, whilst the natives enjoyed their undisturbed repose. Two of the boys were young, and none of the three had their frame and muscles sufficiently developed to enable them to undergo the fatigue of walking during the day if deprived of their rest at night; still the duty became very hard upon two persons, where it was of constant occurrence, and superadded to the ordinary day's labour.
March 29.—After calling up the party, I ascended the highest sand-hill near me, from which the prospect was cheerless and gloomy, and the point and sandy cones we imagined we had seen last night had vanished. Indeed, upon examining the chart, and considering that as yet we had advanced only one hundred and twenty-six miles from the last water, I felt convinced that we had still very far to go before we could expect to reach the sand-drifts. The supply of water we had brought for ourselves was nearly exhausted, and we could afford none for breakfast to-day; the night, however, had been cool, and we did not feel the want of it so much. Upon moving, I sent one of the natives back to the horse I had tied up, about four miles from our camp to try to bring him on to where we should halt in the middle of the day.
For ten miles we continued along the beach until we came to a bluff rocky ridge, running close into the sea; here we rested until the tide fell, and to give the native boy an opportunity of rejoining us, which he did soon after, but without the horse; the poor animal had travelled about eight miles with him from the place where we had left him, but had then been unable to come any further, and he abandoned him.
Whilst the party were in camp, I sent the overseer to a distant point of land to try and get a view of the coast beyond; but upon his return, after a long walk, he told me his view to the west was obstructed by a point similar to the one I had sent him to. During the day, we had passed a rather recent native encampment, where were left some vessels of bark for holding water, or for collecting it from the roots of trees, or the grass. Near where we halted in the middle of the day, the foot-prints of the natives were quite fresh, and shewed that they were travelling the same way as ourselves.
For the last two or three days, we had passed many pieces of wreck upon the beach, oars, thwarts of boats, fragments of masts, spars, etc. strewed about in every direction; none of them, however, appeared to have been recently deposited there, and many of the oars, and lighter spars, were stuck up on their ends in the sand above high water mark, probably so placed by the natives, but with what object I know not. One oar was stuck up upon a high sand ridge, some distance from the shore, and I spent some time in examining the place, in the vain hope that it might be an indication of our vicinity to water.
In the afternoon we all had a little tea; and after a bathe in the sea, again moved onwards; fortunately the beach was firm and hard, and the evening cool; the horses advanced slowly and steadily, and in a way that quite surprised me. After travelling for thirteen miles, we encamped under the coast ridge late in the evening, all very much exhausted, having made several ineffectual searches for water, among the sandy ridges, as we passed along.
In our route along the shore, we had seen immense numbers of fish in the shallow waters, and among the reefs lying off the coast; several dead ones had been picked up, and of these the boys made a feast at night. Our last drop of water was consumed this evening, and we then all lay down to rest, after turning the horses behind the first ridge of the coast, as we could find no grass; and neither the overseer nor I were able to watch them, being both too much worn out with the labours of the day, and our exertions, in searching for water.
March 30.—Getting up as soon as the day dawned, I found that some of the horses had crossed the sand ridge to the beach, and rambled some distance backwards. I found, too, that in the dark, we had missed a patch of tolerable grass among the scrub, not far from our camp. I regretted this the more, as during the night a very heavy dew had fallen, and the horses might perhaps have fed a little.
Leaving the overseer to search for those that had strayed, I took a sponge, and went to try to collect some of the dew which was hanging in spangles upon the grass and shrubs; brushing these with the sponge, I squeezed it, when saturated, into a quart pot, which, in an hour's time, I filled with water. The native boys were occupied in the same way; and by using a handful of fine grass, instead of a sponge, they collected about a quart among them. Having taken the water to the camp, and made it into tea, we divided it amongst the party, and never was a meal more truly relished, although we all ate the last morsel of bread we had with us, and none knew when we might again enjoy either a drink of water, or a mouthful of bread. We had now demonstrated the practicability of collecting water from the dew. I had often heard from the natives that they were in the habit of practising this plan, but had never before actually witnessed its adoption. It was, however, very cold work, and completely wet me through from head to foot, a greater quantity of water by far having been shaken over me, from the bushes, than I was able to collect with my sponge. The natives make use of a large oblong vessel of bark, which they hold under the branches, whilst they brush them with a little grass, as I did with the sponge; the water thus falls into the trough held for it, and which, in consequence of the surface being so much larger than the orifice of a quart pot, is proportionably sooner filled. After the sun once rises, the spangles fall from the boughs, and no more water can be collected; it is therefore necessary to be at work very early, if success is an object of importance.
The morning was very hazy, and at first nothing could be seen of the country before us; but as the mist gradually cleared away a long point was seen to the south-west, but so very distant that I felt certain our horses never would get there if it lay between us and the water. To our astonishment they kept moving steadily along the beach, which was tolerably firm near the sea, in which were many reefs and shelves of rocks, covered with muscles below low water mark. As we progressed, it was evident that the country was undergoing a considerable change; the sea shore dunes and the ridges immediately behind them were now of a pure white sand, and steep, whilst those further back were very high and covered with low bushes. Upon ascending one of the latter I had a good view around, and to my inexpressible pleasure and relief saw the high drifts of sand we were looking for so anxiously, in the corner between us and the more distant point of land first seen. The height of the intervening ridges and the sand-drifts being in the angle prevented us from noticing them sooner.
We had now travelled ten miles, and the sand-hills were about five miles further. The horses were, however, becoming exhausted, and the day was so hot that I was compelled to halt, and even now, in sight of our long-expected goal, I feared we might be too late to save them. Leaving the boys to attend to the animals, I took the overseer up one of the ridges to reconnoitre the country for the purpose of ascertaining whether there was no place near us where water might be procured by digging. After a careful examination a hollow was selected between the two front ridges of white sand, where the overseer thought it likely we might be successful. The boys were called up to assist in digging, and the work was anxiously commenced; our suspense increasing every moment as the well was deepened. At about five feet the sand was observed to be quite moist, and upon its being tasted was pronounced quite free from any saline qualities. This was joyous news, but too good to be implicitly believed, and though we all tasted it over and over again, we could scarcely believe that such really was the case. By sinking another foot the question was put beyond all doubt, and to our great relief fresh water was obtained at a depth of six feet from the surface, on the seventh day of our distress, and after we had travelled one hundred and sixty miles since we had left the last water. Words would be inadequate to express the joy and thankfulness of my little party at once more finding ourselves in safety, and with abundance of water near us. A few hours before hope itself seemed almost extinguished, and those only who have been subjeet to a similar extremity of distress can have any just idea of the relief we experienced. The mind seemed to have been weighed down by intense anxiety and over-wrought feelings. At first the gloomy restlessness of disappointment or the feverish impatience of hope had operated upon our minds alternately, but these had long since given way to that calm settled determination of purpose, and cool steady vigour of action which desperate circumstances can alone inspire. Day by day our prospects of success had gradually diminished; our horses had become reduced to so dreadful a state that many had died, and all were likely to do so soon; we ourselves were weak and exhausted by fatigue, and it appeared impossible that either could have gone many miles further. In this last extremity we had been relieved. That gracious God, without whose assistance all hope of safety had been in vain, had heard our earnest prayers for his aid, and I trust that in our deliverance we recognized and acknowledged with sincerity and thankfulness his guiding and protecting hand. It is in circumstances only such as we had lately been placed in that the utter hopelessness of all human efforts is truly felt, and it is when relieved from such a situation that the hand of a directing and beneficent Being appears most plainly discernible, fulfilling those gracious promises which he has made, to hear them that call upon him in the day of trouble.
[Note 27: "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them."
"I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water."—Isa. xli. 17, 18.
"I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert."—Isa. xliii. 19.]
As soon as each had satisfied his thirst the pots were filled and boiled for tea, and some bread was baked, whilst the overseer and natives were still increasing the size of the well to enable us to water the horses. We then got a hasty meal that we might the better go through the fatigue of attending to the suffering animals. Our utmost caution now became necessary in their management; they had been seven days without a drop of water, and almost without food also, and had suffered so much that with abundance of water near us, and whilst they were suffering agonies from the want of it, we dared not give it to them freely. Having tied them up to some low bushes, we gave each in turn about four gallons, and then driving them away for half a mile to where there was a little withered grass, we watched them until the evening, and again gave each about four gallons more of water.
Whilst thus engaged, a very fine looking native with his wife and family, passed us and halted for a few moments to observe us, and procure a drink from the well we had made. This man did not seem at all alarmed, and made signs that he was going to sleep, a little further along the coast, where there was also water, pointing to the white sandhills about five miles from us. The language he spoke seemed to be the same as that of the other natives we had met with along the Great Bight, nor did the King George's Sound native understand him a bit better than he had done the others.
At night one of our two remaining sheep was killed, and the overseer and myself proceeded to watch the horses for the night. The poor creatures were scarcely able to crawl, yet were restless and uneasy, and fed but little, they had tasted water and they were almost mad for it, so that it was a severe task to both myself and the overseer to keep them from returning to the well. The single sheep now left had also given us a good deal of trouble, it was frightened at being alone, and frustrated all our efforts to yard it, preferring to accompany and remain with the horses,—an arrangement we were obliged to acquiesce in.
March 31.—The morning broke wild and lowering, and the sand blew fearfully about from the drifts among which the water was. Our well had tumbled in during the night, and we had to undergo considerable labour before we could water the horses. After clearing it out, we gave each of them seven gallons, and again sent them away to the grass, letting the native boys watch them during the day, whilst we rested for a few hours, shifted our camp to a more sheltered place, weighed out a week's allowance of flour at half a pound each per day, and made sundry other necessary arrangements.
Fearful of losing our only remaining sheep, if left to wander about, we made a strong yard to put it into at nights, for a long time, however, we could not get it to go near the yard, and only succeeded at last by leading in a horse first, behind which it walked quite orderly.
April 1.—The last night had been bitterly cold and frosty, and as we were badly clad, and without the means of making a large or permanent fire, we all felt acutely the severity of the weather. After breakfast, I left the overseer and natives to clear out the well, which had again fallen in, and water the horses, whilst I walked five miles along the beach to the westward, and then turned inland to examine the sand-drifts there and search for grass. Behind the drifts I found some open sandy plains, with a coarse kind of dry grass upon them, and as they were not far from where the natives had dug wells for water, I thought the place might suit us to encamp at for a time when we left our present position. In returning to the camp, through the scrub behind the coast, I shot a fine wallabie, and saw several others; but having only cartridges with me, I did not like to cut up the balls for ammunition.
April 2.—Another severe cold frosty night made us fully sensible that the winter was rapidly closing in upon us, notwithstanding the ill-provided and unprotected state we were in to encounter its inclemencies. Our well had again tumbled in, and gave us a good deal of trouble, besides, each successive clearing out deepened it considerably, and this took us to a level where the brackish water mixed with the fresh; from this cause the water was now too brackish to be palatable, and we sunk another well apart from that used for the horses, at which to procure any water we required for our own use. During the afternoon I shot a wallabie behind the camp, but the place being densely scrubby, and the animal not quite dead, I did not get it.
On the 3rd, I sent the overseer out in one direction and I went myself out in another, to examine the country and try to procure wallabies for food. We both returned late, greatly fatigued with walking through dense scrubs and over steep heavy sand ridges, but without having fired a shot.
Our mutton (excepting the last sheep) being all used on the 4th, we were reduced to our daily allowance of half a pound of flour each, without any meat.
On the 5th, the overseer and one of the native boys got ready to go back for some of the stores and other things we had abandoned, forty-seven miles away. As they were likely to have severe exercise, and to be away for four days, I gave them five pounds extra of flour above their daily allowance, together with the wallabie which I had shot, and which had not yet been used; they drove before them three horses to carry their supply of water, and bring back the things sent for.
As soon as they were gone, with the assistance of the two native boys who were left, I removed the camp to the white sand-drifts, five miles further west. Being anxious to keep as near to the grass as I could, I commenced digging at some distance away from where the natives procured their water, but at a place where there were a great many rushes. After sinking to about seven feet, I found the soil as dry as ever, and removing to the native wells, with some little trouble opened a hole large enough to water all the horses. The single sheep gave us a great deal of trouble and kept us running about from one sand hill to another, until we were tired out, before we could capture it; at last we succeeded, and I tied him up for the night, resolved never to let him loose again.
In the evening I noticed the native boys looking more woe-begone and hungry than usual. Heretofore, since our mutton was consumed, they had helped out their daily half-pound of flour, with the roasted roots of the gum-scrub, but to-day they had been too busy to get any, and I was obliged to give to each a piece of bread beyond the regular allowance. It was pitiable to see them craving for food, and not to have the power of satisfying them; they were young and had large appetites, and never having been accustomed to any restraint of this nature, scarcity of food was the more sensibly felt, especially as they could not comprehend the necessity that compelled us to hoard with greater care than a miser does his gold, the little stock of provisions which we yet had left.
April 6.—The severe frost and intense cold of last night entirely deprived me of sleep, and I was glad when the daylight broke, though still weary and unrefreshed. After clearing out the well, and watering the horses, I sent one of the boys out to watch them, and gave the other the gun to try and shoot a wallabie, but after expending the only two charges of slugs I had left, he returned unsuccessful. At night we all made up our supper with the bark of the young roots of the gum-scrub. It appears to be extensively used for food by the natives in this district, judging from the remnants left at their encamping places. The bark is peeled off the young roots of the eucalyptus dumosa, put into hot ashes until nearly crisp, and then the dust being shaken off, it is pounded between two stones and ready for use. Upon being chewed, a farinaceous powder is imbibed from between the fibres of the bark, by no means unpleasant in flavour, but rather sweet, and resembling the taste of malt; how far a person could live upon this diet alone, I have no means of judging, but it certainly appeases the appetite, and is, I should suppose, nutritious.
April 7.—Another sleepless night from the intense cold. Upon getting up I put a mark upon the beach to guide the overseer to our camp on his return, then weighed out flour and baked bread for the party, as I found it lasted much better when used stale than fresh. I tried to shoot some pigeons with small gravel, having plenty of powder but no shot. My efforts were, however, in vain, for though I several times knocked them over, and tore feathers out, I killed none. The day being very clear, I ascended the highest sand-hill to obtain a view of what had appeared to us to be a long point of land, stretching to the south-west. It was now clearly recognisable as the high level line of cliffs forming the western boundary of the Great Bight, and I at once knew, that when we left our present position, we could hope for no water for at least 140 or 150 miles beyond.
The weather on the 8th and 9th suddenly became mild and soft, with the appearance of rain, but none fell. I was becoming anxious about the return of my overseer and native boy, who had been absent nine tides, when they ought to have returned in eight, and I could not help fearing some mischance had befallen them, and frequently went back wards and forwards to the beach, to look for them. The tenth tide found me anxiously at my post on the look out, and after watching for a long time I thought I discerned some dark objects in the distance, slowly advancing; gradually I made out a single horse, driven by two people, and at once descended to meet them. Their dismal tale was soon told. After leaving us on the 5th, they reached their destination on the 7th; but in returning one of the horses became blind, and was too weak to advance further, when they had barely advanced thirteen miles; they were consequently obliged to abandon him, and leave behind the things he had been carrying. With the other two horses they got to within five miles of the place we first procured water at on the 30th March. Here a second horse had become unable to proceed, and the things he had carried were also obliged to be left behind. They then got both horses to the first well at the sand-hills and watered them, and after resting a couple of hours came on to join me. Short as this distance was, the jaded horse could not travel it, and was left behind a mile and a half back. Having shewn the overseer and boy the camp, I sent the other two natives to fetch up the tired horse, whilst I attended to the other, and put the solitary sheep in for the night. By a little after dark all was arranged, and the horse that had been left behind once more with the others.
From the overseer I learnt, that during the fifty miles he had retraced our route to obtain the provisions we had left, he had five times dug for water: four times he had found salt water, and once he had been stopped by rock. The last effort of this kind he had made not far from where we found water on the 30th of March, and I could not but be struck with the singular and providential circumstance of our first halting and attempting to dig for water on that day in all our distress, at the very first place, and at the only place, within the 160 miles we had traversed, where water could have been procured. It will be remembered, that in our advance, we had travelled a great part of the latter portion of this distance by night, and that thus there was a probability of our having passed unknowingly some place where water might have been procured. The overseer had now travelled over the same ground in daylight, with renovated strength, and in a condition comparatively strong, and fresh for exertion. He had dug wherever he thought there was a chance of procuring water, but without success in any one single instance.
After learning all the particulars of the late unlucky journey, I found that a great part of the things I had sent for were still thirty-eight miles back, having only been brought twelve miles from where they had originally been left; the rest of the things were ten miles away, and as nearly all our provisions, and many other indispensable articles were among them, it became absolutely necessary that they should be recovered in some way or other, but how that was to be accomplished was a question which we could not so easily determine. Our horses were quite unfit for service of any kind, and the late unfortunate attempt had but added to the difficulties by which we were surrounded, and inflicted upon us the additional loss of another valuable animal. Many and anxious were the hours I spent in contemplating the circumstances we were in, and in revolving in my mind the best means at our command to extricate ourselves from so perilous a situation. We were still 650 miles from King George's Sound, with an entirely unknown country before us. Our provisions, when again recovered, would be barely sufficient to last us for three weeks and a half, at a very reduced rate of allowance. Our horses were jaded and miserable beyond all conception; they could literally scarcely crawl, and it was evident they would be unable to move on again at all without many days' rest where we were. On the other hand we had still the prospect of another of those fearful pushes without water to encounter, as soon as we left our present encampment, and had first to recover the provisions and other things yet so far away. Nothing could be more disheartening than our situation, and it was also one in which it was difficult to decide what was best to be done. Aware that a single false step would now be fatal to us all, I saw that our circumstances required promptness and decision. With every thing depending upon my sole judgment, and the determination I arrived at, I felt deeply and anxiously the over-whelming responsibility that devolved upon me.
We were now about half way between Fowler's Bay and King George's Sound, located among barren sand-drifts, and without a drop of water beyond us on either side, within a less distance than 150 miles. Our provisions were rapidly decreasing, whilst we were lying idle and inactive in camp; and yet it would be absolutely necessary for us thus to remain for some time longer, or at once abandon the horses, and endeavour to make our way without them. To the latter, however, there were many objections, one of which was, that I well knew from the experience we had already had, that if we abandoned the horses, and had those fearful long distances to travel without water, we never could accomplish them on foot, if compelled at the same time to live upon a very low diet, to carry our arms, ammunition, and provisions, and in addition to these, a stock of water, sufficient to last six or seven days. The only thing that had enabled us to get through so far on our journey in safety, had been the having the horses with us, for though weak and jaded, they had yet carried the few things, which were indispensable to us, and which we never could have carried ourselves under the circumstances.
There was another inducement to continue with the horses, which had considerable weight with me, and however revolting the idea might be at first, it was a resource which I foresaw the desperate circumstances we were in must soon compel us to adopt. It was certainly horrible to contemplate the destruction of the noble animals that had accompanied us so far, but ere long I well knew that such would be the only chance of saving our own lives, and I hoped that by accustoming the mind to dwell upon the subject beforehand, when the evil hour did arrive, the horror and disgust would be in some degree lessened. Upon consulting the overseer, I was glad to find that he agreed with me fully in the expediency of not abandoning the horses until it became unavoidable, and that he had himself already contemplated the probability of our being very shortly reduced to the alternative of using them for food.
It remained now only to decide, which way we would go when we agan moved on, whether to prosecute our journey to the Sound, or try to retrace our steps to Fowler's Bay. On this point my own opinion never wavered for an instant. My conviction of the utter impossibility of our ever being able to recross the fearful country we had passed through with such difficulty, under circumstances so much more favourable than we were now in, was so strong that I never for a moment entertained the idea myself. I knew the many and frightful pushes without water we should have to make in any such attempt, and though the country before us was unknown, it could not well be worse than that we had passed through, whilst the probability was, that after the first long stage was accomplished, and which would take us beyond the western boundary of the Great Bight, we should experience a change in the character of the country, and be able to advance with comparative ease and facility. Unhappily my overseer differed from me in opinion upon this point.
The last desperate march we had made, had produced so strong an impression upon his mind, that he could not divest himself of the idea that the further we went to the westward the more arid the country would be found, and that eventually we should all perish from want of water; on the other hand, the very reduced allowance of food we were compelled to limit ourselves to, made his thoughts always turn to the depot at Fowler's Bay, where we had buried a large supply of provisions of all kinds. In vain I pointed out to him the certain difficulties we must encounter in any attempt to return, the little probability there was of a single horse surviving even the first of those dreadful stages we should have to make, and the utter impossibility of our getting successfully through without the horses; and, on the other hand, the very cheering prospect there was of all our most serious difficulties being terminated as soon as we had turned the western extremity of the Bight (to accomplish which, would not occupy more than six or seven days at the furthest when we moved on,) and the strong hopes that we might then reasonably entertain of falling in with some vessel, sealing or whaling upon the coast, and from which we might obtain a fresh supply of provisions. All my arguments were fruitless. With the characteristic obedience and fidelity with which he had ever served me, he readily acquiesced in any plan I might decide upon adopting; but I perceived, with pain, that I could not convince him that the view I took was the proper one, and that the plan I intended to follow was the only one which held out to us even the remotest hopes of eventual safety and success.
Finding that I made little progress in removing his doubts on the question of our advance, I resolved to pursue the subject no further, until the time for decision came, hoping that in the interim, his opinions and feelings might in some degree be modified, and that he might then accompany me cheerfully. The important and pressing duty of recovering at once the stores we had left behind, now claimed my attention. The overseer, with his usual anxiety to save me from any extra labour, kindly offered to attempt this object again; but as he had just returned from a severe, though unfortunately unsuccessful journey for the same purpose, I decided upon doing it myself, and at once made my preparations for leaving the camp.
GO BACK WITH A NATIVE—SPEAR STING-RAYS—RECOVER THE BAGGAGE—COLD WEATHER—OVERSEER RECONNOITRES THE CLIFFS—UNFAVOURABLE REPORT—DIFFERENCE OF OPINION AS TO BEST PLANS FOR THE FUTURE—KILL A HORSE FOR FOOD—INJURIOUS EFFECTS FROM MEAT DIET—NATIVE BOYS BECOME DISAFFECTED—THEY STEAL PROVISIONS—NATIVE BOYS DESERT THE PARTY—THEY RETURN ALMOST STARVED—PARTY PROCEED ONWARDS TO THE WESTWARD—CLIFFS OF THE BIGHT—COUNTRY BEHIND THEM—THREATENING WEATHER—MURDER OF THE OVERSEER.
April 10.—FOUR days' provisions having been given to each of the party, I took the King George's Sound native with me to retrace, on foot, our route to the eastward. For the first ten miles I was accompanied by one of the other native boys, leading a horse to carry a little water for us, and take back the stores the overseer had buried at that point, when the second horse knocked up with him on the morning of the 9th. Having found the things, and put them on the horse, I sent the boy with them back to the camp, together with a large sting-ray fish which he had speared in the surf near the shore. It was a large, coarse, ugly-looking thing, but as it seemed to be of the same family as the skate, I did not imagine we should run any risk in eating it. In other respects, circumstances had broken through many scruples and prejudices, and we were by no means particular as to what the fish might be, if it were eatable.
Having buried our little keg of water until our return, the King George's Sound native and myself pushed on for five miles further, and then halted for the night, after a day's journey of fifteen miles. We now cooked some sting-ray fish (for the native with me had speared a second one,) and though it was coarse and dry, our appetites had been sharpened by our walk, and we thought it far from being unpalatable.
April 11.—Moving away long before daylight, we pushed steadily on, and about dusk arrived, after a stage of twenty-three miles, at the place where our stores were. I found a much greater weight here than I expected, and feared it would be quite impossible for us to carry the whole away. By the light of the fire, I threw out saddles, clothes, oil-skins, etc. that we did not absolutely require, and packing up the remainder, weighed a bundle of thirty-two pounds for myself to carry, and one of twenty-two for the native, who also had a gun to take. Our arrangements being completed for the morrow, we enjoyed our supper of sting-ray, and lay down for the night.
April 12.—To-day the weather was cloudy and sultry, and we found it very oppressive carrying the weight we had with us, especially as we had no water. By steady perseverance, we gained the place where our little keg had been buried; and having refreshed ourselves with a little tea, again pushed on for a few miles to a place where I had appointed the overseer to send a native to meet us with water. He was already there, and we all encamped together for the night, soon forgetting, in refreshing sleep, the fatigues and labours of the day.
The 13th was a dark cloudy day, with light rains in the morning. About noon we arrived at the camp, after having walked seventy-six miles in the last three days and a half, during great part of which, we had carried heavy weights. We had, however, successfully accomplished the object for which we had gone, and had now anxieties only for our future progress, the provisions and other stores being all safely recovered.
During my absence, I had requested the overseer to bake some bread, in order that it might be tolerably stale before we used it. To my regret and annoyance, I found that he had baked one third of our whole supply, so that it would be necessary to use more than our stated allowance, or else to let it spoil. It was the more vexing, to think that in this case the provisions had been so improvidently expended, from the fact of our having plenty of the sting-ray fish, and not requiring so much bread.
April 14.—Early this morning I sent the overseer, and one of the native boys, with three days' provision to the commencement of the cliffs to the westward, visible from the sand-hills near our camp, in order that they might ascertain the exact distance they were from us, and whether any grass or water could be procured nearer to their base than where we were. After their departure, I attended to the horses, and then amused myself preparing some fishing lines to set off the shore, with a large stone as an anchor, and a small keg for a buoy. The day was, however, wild and boisterous; and in my attempts to get through the surf, to set the lines, I was thrown down, together with the large stone I was carrying, and my leg severely cut and bruised. The weather was extremely cold, too, and being without coat or jacket of any kind, I suffered severely from it.
The 15th was another cold day, with the wind at south-west, and we could neither set the lines, nor spear sting-ray, whilst the supply we had before obtained was now nearly exhausted. One of the horses was taken ill, and unable to rise, from the effects of the cold; his limbs were cramped and stiff, and apparently unable to sustain the weight of his body. After plucking dry grass, and making a bed for him, placing a breakwind of boughs round, and making a fire near him, we left him for the night.
Late in the evening, the overseer and boy returned from the westward, and reported, that the cliffs were sixteen miles away; that they had dug for water, but that none could be found, and that there was hardly a blade of grass any where, whilst the whole region around was becoming densely scrubby; through much of which we should have to pass before we reached the cliffs. Altogether, the overseer seemed quite discouraged by the appearance of the country, and to dread the idea of moving on in that direction, often saying, that he wished he was back, and that he thought he could retrace his steps to Fowler's Bay, where a supply of provisions had been buried. I was vexed at these remarks, because I felt that I could not coincide in them, and because I knew that when the moment for decision came, my past experience, and the strong reasons which had produced in my own mind quite a different conviction, would compel me to act in opposition to the wishes of the only European with me, and he a person, too, whom I sincerely respected for the fidelity and devotion with which he had followed me through all my wanderings. I was afraid, too, that the native boys, hearing his remarks, and perceiving that he had no confidence in our future movements, would catch up the same idea, and that, in addition to the other difficulties and anxieties I had to cope with, would be the still more frightful one of disaffection and discontent. Another subject of uneasiness arose from the nature of our diet;—for some few days we had all been using a good deal of the sting-ray fish, and though at first we had found it palatable, either from confining ourselves too exclusively to it, or from eating too much, it had latterly disagreed with us. The overseer declared it made him ill and weak, and that he could do nothing whilst living upon it. The boys said the same; and yet we had nothing else to supply its place, and the small quantity of flour left would not admit of our using more than was barely necessary to sustain life. At this time we had hardly any fish left, and the whole party were ravenously hungry. In this dilemma, I determined to have the sick horse killed for food. It was impossible he could ever recover, and by depriving him of life a few hours sooner than the natural course of events would have done, we should be enabled to get a supply of food to last us over a few days more, by which time I hoped we might again be able to venture on, and attempt another push to the westward.
Early on the morning of the 16th, I sent the overseer to kill the unfortunate horse, which was still alive, but unable to rise from the ground, having never moved from the place where he had first been found lying yesterday morning. The miserable animal was in the most wretched state possible, thin and emaciated by dreadful and long continued sufferings, and labouring under some complaint, that in a very few hours at the farthest, must have terminated its life.
After a great portion of the meat had been cut off from the carcase, in thin slices, they were dipped in salt water and hung up upon strings to dry in the sun. I could not bring myself to eat any to-day, so horrible and revolting did it appear to me, but the overseer made a hearty dinner, and the native boys gorged themselves to excess, remaining the whole afternoon by the carcase, where they made a fire, cutting off and roasting such portions as had been left. They looked like ravenous wolves about their prey, and when they returned to the camp at night, they were loaded with as much cooked meat as they could carry, and which they were continually eating during the night; I made a meal upon some of the sting-ray that was still left, but it made me dreadfully sick, and I was obliged to lie down, seriously ill.
April 17.—Being rather better to-day, I was obliged to overcome my repugnance to the disagreeable food we were compelled to resort to, and the ice once broken, I found that although it was far from being palatable, I could gradually reconcile myself to it. The boys after breakfast again went down to the carcase, and spent the whole day roasting and eating, and at night they again returned to the camp loaded. We turned all the meat upon the strings and redipped it in sea water again to-day, but the weather was unfavourable for drying it, being cold and damp. Both yesterday and to-day light showers fell sufficient to moisten the grass.
April 18.—The day being much warmer, many large flies were about, and I was obliged to have a fire kept constantly around the meat, to keep them away by the smoke. I now put the natives upon an allowance of five pounds of flesh each per day, myself and the overseer using about half that quantity.
On the 19th, I sent out one of the boys to try and get a sting-ray to vary our diet, but he returned unsuccessful. During the forenoon I was seized with a violent attack of dysentery, accompanied with diabetes, from which I suffered extremely. The overseer was affected also, but in a less violent degree. The origin of this complaint was plainly traceable to the food we had used for the last day or two; it rendered us both incapable of the least exertion of any kind, whilst the disorder continued, and afterwards left us very languid and weak. In the evening upon examining the meat, a great deal of it was found to be getting putrid, or fly-blown, and we were obliged to pick it over, and throw what was tainted away.
April 20.—To-day I had all the meat boiled, as I thought it would keep better cooked than raw, we had only a small tin saucepan without a handle, to effect our cooking operations with, and the preparation of the meat therefore occupied the whole of the day. The overseer was again attacked with dysentery. At night the clouds gathered heavily around, and the weather being mild and soft, I fully expected rain; after dark, however, the wind rose high and the threatened storm passed away.
On the 21st, I was seized again with illness. The overseer continued to be affected also, and we were quite unable to make the necessary preparations for our journey to the westward, which I fully intended to have commenced to-morrow. For several hours we were in the greatest agony, and could neither lie down, sit up, nor stand, except with extreme pain. Towards the afternoon the violence of the symptoms abated a little, but we were exceedingly weak.
April 22.—Upon weighing the meat this morning, which as usual was left out upon the strings at night, I discovered that four pounds had been stolen by some of the boys, whilst we were sleeping. I had suspected that our stock was diminishing rapidly for a day or two past, and had weighed it overnight that I might ascertain this point, and if it were so, take some means to prevent it for the future. With so little food to depend upon, and where it was so completely in the power of any one of the party, to gratify his own appetite at the expense of the others, during their absence, or when they slept, it became highly necessary to enforce strict honesty towards each other; I was much grieved to find that the meat had been taken by the natives, more particularly as their daily allowance had been so great. We had, moreover, only two days' supply of the meat left for the party, and being about to commence the long journey before us, it was important to economise our provisions to support us under the fatigue and labours we should then have to undergo.
Having deducted the four pounds stolen during the night, from the daily rations of the three boys, I gave them the remainder, (eight pounds) telling them the reason why their quantity was less to-day than usual, and asking them to point out the thief, who alone should be punished and the others would receive their usual rations. The youngest of the three boys, and the King George's Sound native, resolutely denied being concerned in the robbery; but the other native doggedly refused to answer any questions about it, only telling me that he and the native from King George's Sound would leave me and make their way by themselves. I pointed out to them the folly, in fact the impossibility almost, of their succeeding in any attempt of the kind; advised them to remain quietly where they were, and behave well for the future, but concluded by telling them that if they were bent upon going they might do so, as I would not attempt to stop them.
For some time past the two eldest of the boys, both of whom were now nearly grown up to manhood, had been far from obedient in their general conduct. Ever since we had been reduced to a low scale of diet they had been sulky and discontented, never assisting in the routine of the day, or doing what they were requested to do with that cheerfulness and alacrity that they had previously exhibited. Unaccustomed to impose the least restraint upon their appetites or passions, they considered it a hardship to be obliged to walk as long as any horses were left alive, though they saw those horses falling behind and perishing from fatigue; they considered it a hardship, too, to be curtailed in their allowance of food, as long as a mouthful was left unconsumed; and in addition to this, they had imbibed the overseer's idea that we never should succeed in our attempt to get to the westward, and got daily more dissatisfied at remaining idle in camp, whilst the horses were recruiting.
The excess of animal food they had had at their command for some few days after the horse was killed, made them forget their former scarcity, and in their folly they imagined that they could supply their own wants, and get on better and more rapidly than we did, and they determined to attempt it. Vexed as I had been at finding out they had not scrupled to plunder the small stock of provisions we had left, I was loth to let them leave me foolishly without making an effort to prevent it. One of them had been with me a great length of time, and the other I had brought from his country and his friends, and to both I felt bound by ties of humanity to prevent if possible their taking the rash step they meditated; my remonstrances and expostulations were however in vain, and after getting their breakfasts, they took up some spears they had been carefully preparing for the last two days, and walked sulkily from the camp in a westerly direction. The youngest boy had, it seemed, also been enticed to join them, for he was getting up with the intention of following, when I called him back and detained him in the camp, as he was too young to know what he was doing, and had only been led astray by the others. I had intended to have moved on myself to-day, but the departure of the natives made me change my intention, for I deemed it desirable that they should have at least three or four days start of us. Finding that the single sheep we had left would now be the cause of a good deal of trouble, I had it killed this afternoon, that we might have the full advantage of it whilst we had plenty of water, and might be enabled to hoard our bread a little. We had still a little of the horse-flesh left, and made a point of using it all up before the mutton was allowed to be touched.
The morning of the 23rd broke cool and cloudy, with showers gathering from seawards; the wind was south-west, and the sky wild and lowering in that direction. During the forenoon light rain fell, but scarcely more than sufficient to moisten the grass; it would, however, probably afford our deserters a drink upon the cliffs. Towards evening the sky cleared, and the weather became frosty.
On the following day we still remained in camp, hoping for rain;—a single heavy shower would so completely have freed us from the danger of attempting to force a passage through the great extent of arid country before us, that I was unwilling to move on until the very last moment. Our rations were however rapidly disappearing whilst we were idling in camp, the horse-flesh was all consumed, and to-day we had commenced upon the mutton, so that soon we should be compelled to go, whether it rained or not. Month after month however had passed away without any fall of rain, and the season had now arrived when, under ordinary circumstances, much wet might be expected; and though each day, as it passed without gratifying our hopes, but added to our disappointment, yet did every hour we lingered give us a better chance of being relieved by showers in our route round the last cliffs of the Bight. The evening set in mild but close, with the wind at north-east, and I had great hopes that showers would fall.
April 25.—During the night dense clouds, accompanied by gusts of wind and forked lightning, passed rapidly to the south-west, and this morning the wind changed to that quarter. Heavy storms gathered to seawards with much thunder and lightning, but no rain fell near us; the sea appearing to attract all the showers. The overseer shot a very large eagle to-day and made a stew of it, which was excellent. I sent the boy out to try and shoot a wallabie, but he returned without one.
In the evening, a little before dark, and just as we had finished our tea, to my great astonishment our two runaway natives made their appearance, the King George's Sound native being first. He came frankly up, and said that they were both sorry for what they had done, and were anxious to be received again, as they found they could get nothing to eat for themselves. The other boy sat silently and sullenly at the fire, apparently more chagrined at being compelled by necessity to come back to us than sorry for having gone away. Having given them a lecture, for they both now admitted having stolen meat, not only on the night they were detected but previously, I gave each some tea and some bread and meat, and told them if they behaved well they would be treated in every respect as before, and share with us our little stock of provisions as long as it lasted.
I now learnt that they had fared in the bush but little better than I should have done myself. They had been absent four days, and had come home nearly starved. For the first two days they got only two small bandicoots and found no water; they then turned back, and obtaining a little water in a hollow of the cliffs, left by the shower which had passed over, they halted under them to fish, and speared a sting-ray; this they had feasted on yesterday, and to-day came from the cliffs to look for us without any thing to eat at all.
During the night some heavy clouds passed over our heads, and once a drop or two of rain fell. The 26th broke wild and stormy to the east and west, and I determined to remain one day longer in camp, in the hope of rain falling, but principally to rest the two natives a little after the long walk from which they had returned. Breakfast being over, I sent the overseer and one native to the beach, to try to get a sting-ray, and to the other I gave my gun to shoot wallabie: no fish was procured, but one wallabie was got, half of which I gave to the native who killed it, for his dinner.
Being determined to break up camp on the 27th, I sent the King George's Sound native on a-head, as soon as he had breakfasted, that, by preceding the party, he might have time to spear a sting-ray against we overtook him. The day was dull, cloudy, and warm, and still looking likely for rain, with the wind at north-east. At eleven we were ready, and moved away from a place where we had experienced so much relief in our extremity, and at which our necessities had compelled us to remain so long. For twenty-eight days we had been encamped at the sand-drifts, or at the first water we had found, five miles from them. Daily, almost hourly, had the sky threatened rain, and yet none fell. We had now entered upon the last fearful push, which was to decide our fate. This one stretch of bad country crossed, I felt a conviction we should be safe. That we had at least 150 miles to go to the next water I was fully assured of; I was equally satisfied that our horses were by no means in a condition to encounter the hardships and privations they must meet with in such a journey; for though they had had a long rest, and in some degree recovered from their former tired-out condition, they had not picked up in flesh or regained their spirits; the sapless, withered state of the grass and the severe cold of the nights had prevented them from deriving the advantage that they ought to have done from so long a respite from labour. Still I hoped we might be successful. We had lingered day by day, until it would have been folly to have waited longer; the rubicon was, however, now passed, and we had nothing to rely upon but our own exertions and perseverance, humbly trusting that the great and merciful God who had hitherto guarded and guidedus in safety would not desert us now.
Upon leaving the camp we left behind one carbine, a spade, some horse hobbles, and a few small articles, to diminish as much as possible the weight we had to carry. For eight miles we traced round the beach to the most north-westerly angle of the Bight, and for two miles down its south-west shore, but were then compelled by the rocks to travel to the back, through heavy scrubby ridges for four miles; after which we again got in to the beach, and at one mile along its shore, or fifteen miles from our camp, we halted for the night, at a patch of old grass. The afternoon had been hot, but the night set in cold and clear, and all appearance of rain was gone. The native I had sent on before had not succeeded in getting a fish, though he had broken one or two spears in his attempts.
April 28.—After travelling along the beach for two miles we ascended behind the cliffs, which now came in bluff to the sea, and then keeping along their summits, nearly parallel with the coast, and passing through much scrub, low brushwood, and dwarf tea-tree growing upon the rocky surface, we made a stage of twenty miles; both ourselves and the horses greatly tired with walking through the matted scrub of tea-tree every where covering the ground. The cliffs did not appear so high as those we had formerly passed along, and probably did not exceed from two to three hundred feet in elevation. They appeared to be of the same geological formation; the upper crust an oolitic limestone, with many shells embedded, below that a coarse, hard, grey limestone, and then alternate streaks of white and yellow in horizontal strata, but which the steepness of the cliffs prevented my going down to examine.
Back from the sea, the country was rugged and stony, and every where covered with scrub or dwarf tea-tree. There was very little grass for the horses, and that old and withered. In the morning one of the natives shot a large wallabie, and this evening the three had it amongst them for supper; after which they took charge of the horses for the night, this being the first time they had ever watched them on the journey, myself and the overseer having exclusively performed this duty heretofore; but, as I was now expecting a longer and almost more arduous push than any we had yet made, and in order that we might be able to discharge efficiently the duties devolving upon us, and make those exertions which our exigences might require, I deemed it only right that we should sometimes be assisted by the two elder boys, in a task which we had before always found to be the most disagreeable and fagging of any, that of watching the horses at night, after a long and tiring day's journey.
On the morning of the 29th we moved away very early, passing over a rocky level country, covered with low brush, and very fatiguing to both ourselves and our horses. The morning was gloomy and close, and the day turned out intensely hot. After travelling only fifteen miles we were compelled to halt until the greatest heat was passed. Our stock of water and provisions only admitted of our making two meals in the day, breakfast and supper; but as I intended this evening to travel great part of the night, we each made our meal now instead of later in the day, that we might not be delayed when the cool of the evening set in. We had been travelling along the summit of the cliffs parallel with the coast line, and had found the country level and uniform in its character; the cliffs still being from two to three hundred feet in elevation, and of the same formation as I noticed before. There were patches of grass scattered among the scrub at intervals, but all were old and withered.
At four in the afternoon we again proceeded on our journey, but had not gone far before the sky unexpectedly became overcast with clouds, and the whole heavens assumed a menacing and threatening appearance. To the east and to the west, thunderclouds gathered heavily around, every indication of sudden and violent rain was present to cheer us as we advanced, and all were rejoicing in the prospects of a speedy termination to our difficulties. The wind had in the morning been north-east, gradually veering round to north and north-west, at which point it was stationary when the clouds began to gather. Towards sunset a heavy storm passed over our heads, with the rapidity almost of lightning; the wind suddenly shifted from north-west to south-west, blowing a perfect hurricane, and rendering it almost impossible for us to advance against it. A few moments before we had confidently expected a heavy fall of rain; the dark and lowering sky had gradually gathered and concentrated above and around us, until the very heavens seemed overweighted and ready every instant to burst. A briefer interval of time, accompanied by the sudden and violent change of wind, had dashed our hopes to the ground, and the prospect of rain was now over, although a few heavy clouds still hung around us.
Three miles from where we had halted during the heat of the day, we passed some tolerable grass, though dry, scattered at intervals among the scrub, which grew here in dense belts, but with occasional openings between. The character of the ground was very rocky, of an oolitic limestone, and having many hollows on its surface. Although we had only travelled eighteen miles during the day, the overseer requested I would stop here, as he said he thought the clouds would again gather, and that rain might fall to-night; that here we had large sheets of rock, and many hollows in which the rain-water could be collected; but that if we proceeded onwards we might again advance into a sandy country, and be unable to derive any advantage from the rain, even should it fall. I intended to have travelled nearly the whole of this night to make up for the time we had lost in the heat of the day, and I was the more inclined to do this, now that the violence of the storm had in some measure abated, and the appearance of rain had almost disappeared. The overseer was so earnest, however, and so anxious for me to stop for the night, that greatly against my own wishes, and in opposition to my better judgment, I gave way to him and yielded. The native boys too had made the same request, seconding the overseer's application, and stating, that the violence of the wind made it difficult for them to walk against it.
The horses having been all hobbled and turned out to feed, the whole party proceeded to make break-winds of boughs to form a shelter from the wind, preparatory to laying down for the night. We had taken a meal in the middle of the day, which ought to have been deferred until night, and our circumstances did not admit of our having another now, so that there remained only to arrange the watching of the horses, before going to sleep. The native boys had watched them last night, and this duty of course fell to myself and the overseer this evening. The first watch was from six o'clock P. M. to eleven, the second from eleven until four A. M., at which hour the whole party usually arose and made preparations for moving on with the first streak of daylight.
To-night the overseer asked me which of the watches I would keep, and as I was not sleepy, though tired, I chose the first. At a quarter before six, I went to take charge of the horses, having previously seen the overseer and the natives lay down to sleep, at their respective break-winds, ten or twelve yards apart from one another. The arms and provisions, as was our custom, were piled up under an oilskin, between my break-wind and that of the overseer, with the exception of one gun, which I always kept at my own sleeping place. I have been thus minute in detailing the position and arrangement of our encampment this evening, because of the fearful consequences that followed, and to shew the very slight circumstances upon which the destinies of life sometimes hinge. Trifling as the arrangement of the watches might seem, and unimportant as I thought it at the time, whether I undertook the first or the second, yet was my choice, in this respect, the means under God's providence of my life being saved, and the cause of the loss of that of my overseer.
The night was cold, and the wind blowing hard from the south-west, whilst scud and nimbus were passing very rapidly by the moon. The horses fed tolerably well, but rambled a good deal, threading in and out among the many belts of scrub which intersected the grassy openings, until at last I hardly knew exactly where our camp was, the fires having apparently expired some time ago. It was now half past ten, and I headed the horses back, in the direction in which I thought the camp lay, that I might be ready to call the overseer to relieve me at eleven. Whilst thus engaged, and looking steadfastly around among the scrub, to see if I could anywhere detect the embers of our fires, I was startled by a sudden flash, followed by the report of a gun, not a quarter of a mile away from me. Imagining that the overseer had mistaken the hour of the night, and not being able to find me or the horses, had taken that method to attract my attention, I immediately called out, but as no answer was returned, I got alarmed, and leaving the horses, hurried up towards the camp as rapidly as I could. About a hundred yards from it, I met the King George's Sound native (Wylie), running towards me, and in great alarm, crying out, "Oh Massa, oh Massa, come here,"—but could gain no information from him, as to what had occurred. Upon reaching the encampment, which I did in about five minutes after the shot was fired, I was horror-struck to find my poor overseer lying on the ground, weltering in his blood, and in the last agonies of death.
DESCRIPTION OF SOME NEW AUSTRALIAN ANIMALS. BY J. E. GRAY, ESQ., F.R.S.
I. It was formerly believed, that all the Mammalia inhabiting the Australian continent, but the wild dog, were marsupial; but as the natural history of the country is better known, we are becoming acquainted with nearly as many native non-marsupial beasts as there are marsupial; but they are certainly, generally, of a small size, such as bats, mice, etc., as compared to the kangaroos and other marsupial genera.
Some years ago, in the Proceedings of the Geological Society, (iii. 52.) I described a species of RHINOLOPHUS, from Moreton Bay, which was peculiar for the large size of its ears, hence named R. MEGAPHYLLUS; the one now about to be described, which was found flying near the hospital at Port Essington, by Dr. Sibbald, R.N., is as peculiar for the brightness and beauty of its colour, the male being nearly as bright an orange as the Cock of the rock (RUPICOLA) of South America.
THE ORANGE HORSE-SHOE BAT, (RHINOLOPHUS AURANTIUS.) t. 1. f. 1.—Ears moderate, naked, rather pointed at the end; nose-leaf large, central process small, scarcely lobed, blunt at the top; fur elongate, soft, bright orange, the hairs of the back with short brown tips, of the under side rather paler, of the face rather darker; female pale yellow, with brown tips to the hair of the upper parts.
Inhab. Port Essington, near the Hospital, Dr. Sibbald, R.N.
The membranes are brown, nakedish; the tail is rather produced beyond the membrane at the tip; the feet are small, and quite free from the wings.
Male. Female. The length of the body and head 1.10 1.10 The length of the fore-arm bone 1.11 1.10 The length of the shin-bone 8 8 The length of the ankle and foot 4 4
II. In Captain Grey's Travels in Western Australia I gave a list of the different species of Reptiles and Amphibia found in Australia. Since that period the British Museum has received from the different travellers various other species from that country. The lizards have been described in the catalogue of the Museum collection, recently published, and are being figured in the zoology of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror. Two of the most interesting specimens lately received, belong to a new genus of frogs which appear to be peculiar to Australia, which I shall now proceed to describe:—
GENUS PERIALIA. FAM. RANIDAE.—Tongue nearly circular, entire; palate concave, with two groups of palatine teeth between the orifices of the internal nostrils; jaw toothed; head smooth, high on the side; mouth large; eyes convex, swollen above, tympanum scarcely visible; back rather convex, high on the sides; skin smooth, not porous; limbs rather short; toes 4.5, tapering to a point, nearly free, the palms with roundish tubercles beneath; the fourth hind toe elongate, the rest rather short; the ankle with an oblong, compressed, horny, sharp-edged tubercle on the inner side at the base of the inner toe; the male with an internal vocal sac under the throat.
This genus agrees with SCIAPHOS, PYXICEPHALUS, and PELOLATES, in having a large, sharp-edged tubercle on the inner edge of the ankle, but it differs from them at first sight, by the head and body being compressed and high, the mouth very large, and the eyes convex on the side of the forehead.
PERIALIA EYREI, t. 2. f. 3.—Olive, sides of the face, and body blackish brown; face varies with white streak; the sides of body marbled with unequal white spots; limbs brown and white marbled; under side of the body whitish.
Inhab. Australia, on the banks of the river Murray.
PERIALIA? ORNATA, t. 2. f. 2.—Pale grey, back and sides, marbled with symmetrical dark-edged spots, those of the middle of the back being generally confluent, of the face elongate, band-like; the legs dark-banded, beneath white.
Inhab. Port Essington.
Somewhat like DISCOGLOSUS PICTUS in appearance. The internal nostrils are far apart, with an elongate group of palatine teeth level with their hinder edges.
Taking advantage of the space of the plate, figures of the following species from the same country, which have not hitherto been illustrated have been added. They were described or noticed in the list before referred to.
1. Cystignathus dorsalis, t. 1. f. 2. GRAY, ANN. NAT. HIST. 1841.
2. Phryniscus Australis, t. 2. f. 1. DUM. AND BIB. E. GEN. viii. 725. Bombinator Australis, GRAY, PROC. ZOOL. SOC. 1838. 57.
III. Mr. Eyre having brought home with him the drawing of a species of cray-fish found near the river Murray, which is called by the natives UKODKO, I have been induced to examine the different species of Astaci in the British Museum collection, which have been received at various times from Australia, for the purpose of attempting to identify it.
As we have three very distinct species which have not yet been described or figured in any of the works which have passed under my inspection, I shall proceed to detail their peculiar characters and give figures of their more characteristic features.
The drawing of "the UKODKO or smaller Murray cray-fish" most nearly resembles ASTACUS QUINQUE-CARINATUS, but it is three or four times larger than any of the specimens of that species which we possess, and the figure does not shew any indications of the five keels on the front of the head. In wanting the keel on the thorax it agrees with an Australian species described by Mr. Milne Edwards under the name of ASTACUS AUSTRALASIENSIS, said to come from New Holland, and to be about two inches long, while Mr. Eyre's figure is more than six inches, and is said not to be taken from a large specimen. It differs from Mr. Milne Edwards' figures, in having only one spine on the wrist, so that probably there are still two more species of the genus to be found in Australia.
Mr. Eyre in his notes states—"The Fresh water cray-fish, of the smaller variety; native names, cu-kod-ko, or koon-go-la, is found in the alluvial flats of the river Murray, in South Australia, which are subject to a periodical flooding by the river; it burrows deep below the surface of the ground as the floods recede and are dried up, and remains dormant, until the next flooding recals it to the surface; at first it is in a thin and weakly state, but soon recovers and gets plump and fat, at which time it is most excellent eating. Thousands are procured from a small space of ground with ease, and hundreds of natives are supported in abundance and luxury by them for many weeks together. It sometimes happens that the flood does not recur every year, and in this case the eu-kod-ko lie dormant until the next, and a year and a half would thus be passed below the surface. I have often seen them dug out of my garden, or in my wheat field, by the men engaged in digging ditches for irrigation. The floods usually overflow the river flats in August or September, and recede again in February or March. For further particulars respecting the modes of catching the eu-kod-kos, vide vol. ii. pages 252 and 267."
"I have spoken of this cray-fish as the SMALLER variety as respects the Murray. It is LARGER than the one found in the ponds of the river Torrens at Adelaide; but in the river Murray one is procured of a size ranging to 4 1/2 lbs., and which is QUITE EQUAL in flavour to the FINEST lobster."
These latter have not yet been received in any of our collections, so that we are unable to state how it differs from those now described: they must be the giants of the genus.
1. The Van Diemen's Land Cray-fish. ASTACUS FRANKLINII, t. 3. f. 1.—Carapace convex on the sides, rather rugose on the sides behind, the front only slightly produced and edged with a toothed raised margin not reaching beyond the front edge of the lower orbit, and with a very short ridge at the middle of each orbit behind; the hands compressed, rather rugose, edge thick and toothed: wrist with four or five conical spines on the inner side, the front the largest: the central caudal lobe, broad, continuous, calcareous to the tip, lateral lobes, with a very slight central keel; the sides of the second abdominal rings spinose.
Inhab. Van Diemen's Land.
Mr. Milne Edwards, (Archives du Museum, ii. 35. t. 3.) has recently described a species of this genus from Madagascar, under the name of A. MADAGASCARIENSIS, which is nearly allied to the Van Diemen's Land species, in the shortness of the frontal process, the spines on the sides of the second abdominal segment, and in the lobes of the tail; but it differs from it in the length of the claws, and other particulars. Madagascar appears to be the tropical confines of the genus.
2. The Western Australia Cray-fish. ASTACUS QUINQUE-CARINATUS, t. 3. f. 3.—Carapace smooth, rather convex, and with three keels above; the beak, longly produced, ending in a spine, simple on the side and produced into a keel on each side behind; the central caudal lobe rather narrow, indistinctly divided in half, and like the other lobes flexile at the end, the lateral lobes with a central keel ending a slight spine; the hands elongated, compressed, smooth, with a thickened, toothed, inner margin, which is ciliated above; wrist with two conical spines on the inner side.
Inhab. Western Australia, near Swan River.
3. The Port Essington Cray-fish. ASTACUS BICARINATUS, t. 3.f. 2.—Carapace smooth, rather flattened, with a keel on each side above in front; the beak longly produced, flattened, three toothed at the top; hands rather compressed, smooth, thinner and slightly toothed on the inner edge; the wrist triangular, angularly produced in front; the central caudal lobes with two slightly diverging keels continued, and like the others thin and flexible at the end, the inner lateral lobes with two keels, each ending with a spine.
Inhab. Port Essington, Mr. Gilbert.
The A. AUSTRALASIENSIS, Milne Edwards, Crust ii. 332. t. 24. f. 1—5. agrees with this species in the form of the beak, but the keels on the thorax are not noticed either in the description or in the figure; and the caudal lobes in the figure appear most to resemble A. FRANKLINII.
As the genus ASTACUS is now becoming more numerous in species, it may be divided, with advantage, into three sections, according to the form of the caudal lobes; thus:—
A. The central caudal lobes divided by a transverse suture into two parts, both being hard and calcareous, and with a small spine at the outer angle of the suture (PATAMOBIUS, LEACH) as A. FLUVIATILIS of Europe, and A. AFFINIS of North America, with an elongated rostrum, and A. BARTONII of North America, with a short rostrum.
B. The central caudal lobe continued hard and calcareous to the end, as ASTACUS FRANKLINII of Van Diemen's Land, and A. MADAGASCARIENSIS of Madagascar; both have a very short beak, and the second abdominal ring spinose.
C. The central caudal lobe continued or only slightly divided on the middle of each side; but it and all the lateral lobes are thin and flexible at the hinder parts, as ASTACUS QUINQUE-CARINATUS, and A. BICARINATUS of Australia, and A. CHILIENSIS of Chili.
CATALOGUE OF REPTILES AND FISH, FOUND AT KING GEORGE'S SOUND, BY DEPUTY ASSISTANT COMMISSARY-GENERAL NEILL,
IN A LETTER TO J. E. GRAY, ESQ. BRITISH MUSEUM, LONDON.
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"Sir,—Although in the course of my life, I have had little opportunity to pay attention to the study of Ichthyology, it occurred to me, as now and then a leisure moment was afforded from official duties, that it would perhaps be useful, as well as amusing, to collect and make drawings of the fish about King George's Sound; and I have been in a great degree stimulated to do so, from an accidental visit of my friend, His Excellency Captain Grey, Governor of South Australia, who advised me to forward the drawings to you for the purpose of being placed with others of a similar kind in the British Museum, where ultimately sufficient material may be collected to give some account of the New Holland fish.
"Nothing is assumed as to the execution of the drawings; in fact it often occurred when I set off in my little skiff, (especially in the outset) that seven or eight species were procured in the course of the excursion, which compelled me to make drawings of all when I came home tired in the evening; forwarding them to ensure, as far as possible, their colours before they became extinct—a sort of forced effort in respect to the execution has, therefore, only been effected. The outline of nearly every specimen was taken from ACTUAL PROFILE, by laying the fish upon the paper—in this way I defied error in outline—of course, afterwards carefully drawing and correcting various parts which required it, in a free or rough manner, time not admitting of much pains.
"In naming the fish, I have merely attempted to give the aboriginal and popular names known to the sealers and settlers. In obtaining the former, no little difficulty has been experienced. The younger natives generally giving different names to those of the elder; but finding the fish named by the latter more descriptive, I have, of course, in most instances, adopted them.
"For instance, No. 1, KOJETUCK means the fish with the bones; which is very descriptive, from Koje the bones, [Note 28: This was noticed by Governor Grey.] having very singular bones placed vertically in the neck, connecting the dorsal spines to the back, resembling small tobacco pipes.
"Also the KYNARNOCH, No 13, the bearded, etc. In many other instances the savages of this province are equally clear in naming their animals; and it is curious, even this applies to their children, who commonly receive their name from some extraordinary circumstance at, or about the time of their birth. I find, also, the old men are more minute in SPECIES; the younger often call very different fish by the same name, as the MEMON, Nos. 17, and 43, etc. but as this is curious, merely for the sake of fact, it is otherwise of little importance to the naturalist,—the native name being only useful to enable the collector to obtain any particular species hereafter. As regards the fidelity of the drawings, it may be worth while to mention a singular mistake made by my friend TOOLEGETWALEE; one of the oldest and most friendly savages we have of the King George tribe; who, in looking over my collection to assist me in naming them, observed that the drawings were a little raised off the paper; and like a monkey, began to touch them with his long talons; of course I flew to their rescue, and asked what he meant?
"'INIKEN how make em? me twank skin put him on!' which literally means—'Ah! I now see how you do it, you put the skin on!!' From want of paper of uniform size, I was obliged to use any paper which came to hand, cut the figures out, and afterwards paste them on clean paper; which circumstance gave rise to the poor savage's mistake, and it was not until I actually cut one out before him, that he could be convinced that he was in error—a compliment I could hardly help smiling at. I have only to add in conclusion, that no attempt has been made at ARRANGEMENT, having drawn and numbered the fish as they were caught. Most have been taken by my own hook; some by the native's spear, and some by the seine net.
"The natural SCALE of each has been pasted on to the drawing, and when remarkable, both from the back and sides of the fish, which I considered a more desirable plan than giving imitations, that could hardly, in objects so minute, without the aid of a powerful magnifier, be depended on.
"A descriptive account of each specimen, with the corresponding number to that on the drawing, is also added.
"The effort has afforded me much amusement, and it will be still more agreeable, if they will in any way contribute to a better knowledge of the subject.
"I remain, Sir, "Your most obedient servant, "J. NEILL. "Albany, King George's Sound, "Western Australia."
On receiving this most valuable and interesting collection, I referred the part relative to the Fish to my excellent friend, Dr. Richardson of Haslar, one of the first Ichthyologists now living, who has kindly arranged the notes in systematic order, and added to them, as far as he was able, the modern scientific names. I have done the same to the Reptiles myself. I have retained the original numbers as they refer to the drawings which are preserved in the zoological department of the British Museum.—J. E. GRAY.
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Fam. Lialisidae. LIALIS BURTONII. Native name KERRY-GURA. Considered by the natives as harmless; the scales of the back are very minute; the tail when broken is sometimes terminated by three horny blunt ends; tongue divided and rounded.
LIALIS BICATENATA. Native name WILLIAM LUNGER. Tongue not forked, broad, and rounded off at the point. Not poisonous or at all dreaded by the natives; finely striped down the back, and spotted with deep brown equal marks; has a lappel on each side of the vent.
Killed 10th of October, 1841.
NAJA,—? Native name TORN-OCK or TOOKYTE. Colour dirty olive over the whole body; belly dirty olive; white, faintly dotted from the throat down to the vent, with reddish dirty orange spots; the whole colour appears as if faded; the scales are more closely united to the skin than those of the NOON; fangs placed on each side of the upper jaw, short and rather blunt; scuta, 223.
Although the natives assert, if a person is bitten by this make, and "gets down," i.e. lays in bed three days, he will recover, yet I am very doubtful of this account, more particularly from the women differing from the men, as well as the whole subject being hidden in superstition. Another ground of doubt rests upon the fact of having lost in Van Diemen's Land, a favourite dog, by the bite of a snake very similar to this; the poor animal expired fourteen minutes after the bite, although the piece was almost instantaneously cut out.
The women of King George's Sound declare the bite of the Torn-ock mortal; but the men laugh at that, and maintain the three days' "couple," (sleep) will restore the patients.
The specimen was 4 ft. 9 in. long, but they have been seen 6 or 7 feet long. This is a favourite food of the natives of King George's Sound.
COLUBER? Native name BARDICK. Dirty olive green over the whole back; belly dirty white; scuta 130.
The natives state that the bite produces great swelling of the part for a day or two, and goes off.
Never grows above 14 or 15 inches long. Caught October 1841.
COLUBER. Native name TORKITE or TORKYTE. Back, from the point of the tail to the point of the nose, dark sepia brown; under the head yellow; and towards the middle of the belly orange; scales minute; scuta 140; tongue forked; teeth very minute; no fangs observable. Caught August 30th, 1844.
Not at all dreaded by the natives; venomous, but not deadly, the bite merely producing a bad ulcer for a day or two.
ELAPS MELANOCEPHALUS. Native name WERR. Dirty olive green on the back, from the neck to the tail; scuta 147, dirty reddish orange; head black from the nose to neck; sides of the head white; tongue forked.
Doubtful if poisonous; little dreaded by the natives. Killed October 12th, 1845.
ELAPS. Native name NORN or NORNE. Whole body covered with spear shaped scales; head shining black; the ground colours of the back rich umber, almost black; scuta 161, of a dirty red orange; fangs two on each side of the upper jaw near the lios, small, and bent inwards; tongue forked
This is the most fatal of the New Holland snakes; the animal bitten seldom recovers. The Aborigines have a great dread of this reptile; they however eat of it if they kill it themselves, but there is a superstition amongst them about snakes, which prevents their eating them if killed by a European.
The specimen I figured was a small one, 3 ft. 9 in. long; they are often seen by the natives much larger. I have endeavoured to represent it as it generally sleeps or lies in wait for its prey, small birds, frogs, lizards, etc. It delights in swamps and marshes.
Killed October, 1844.
PYTHON. Native name WAKEL or WA-A-KEL. This snake is considered by the natives a great delicacy, and by their account resembles mutton in flavour, being also remarkably fat. I requested them to let me taste the specimen from which the drawing was made; but they devoured every atom themselves, pretending they did not understand me. The WAKEL differs from the NORN in its habits; although both ascend trees in pursuit of small birds and the young of the opossums. The WAKEL delights in rocky, dry places, near salt water; they are very sluggish, and easily caught by the women, who seize them behind the head and wring their necks. They are described to have been seen 9 or 10 feet long. My specimen, a young male, was exactly 5 feet long. The scales of this species are firmly fixed to the skin, in plates all over the back and belly. The colour is beautiful, dark greenish brown, finely variegated with yellowish white spots.
It was killed by Paddy, a native constable, near Albany, October, 1841.
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No. 58.—PATOECUS FRONTO. Rich. Ann. Nat. Hist. Oct. 1844, vol. xiv.p. 280, Ichth. Ereb. and Terr. p. 20, pl. 13, f. 1, 2.
Native name KARRACK. Colour, a rich dragon's blood, or mahogany; found by a Danish boatman, named Byornsan, 80 miles off the east coast from King George's Sound, December 11th, 1841. Anal rays imperfectly counted, and there is a typographical error in the Zool. of Ereb. and Terr. The true numbers of the rays follow: B. 6; D. 24-16; A. 11-5; C. 10; P. 8.
No. 53.—SCORPOENA, or SEBASTES.—Native name, TYLYUCK, or TELUCK (BIG-HEAD). "Rays, D. 12, 1-8; A. 3-5; P. 21; V. 1-5."
Uncommon. Inhabits rocky shores. Flesh firm and well-flavoured. Caught by hook, 16th Aug. 1841.
No. 34.—SEBASTES?—Native name, CUMBEUK.
A common inhabitant of rocky shores. Good eating. The specimen was speared by Munglewert, 17th May, 1841. "Rays, D. 14-17; A. 3-8; P. 14; V. 1-5."
No. 14.—APISTES. Apparently scaleless, and without free pectoral rays. Does not correspond well with A. MARMORATUS. "Rays, D. 12," etc. Caught by Seine, 18th March, 1841.
The fishermen dread wounds made by the species of this fish, as they always fester.
Native name BOORA-POKEY, or POKY. SERGEANT of the settlers.
No. 36.—PLATYCEPHALUS.—Native name CUMBEL. Common Flat-head of the settlers. Seems to differ from described species in the two dark bars of the tail, being directly transverse, and followed by five large dark purple round spots.
Inhabits sandy shores very commonly, all round the coast of New Holland. A variety occurs at Maria Island, Van Diemen's Land. Caught by hook, 15th May, 1841. Good eating.
No. 13.—UPENEUS.—Native name, MINAME, or KGNARNUCK (the bearded); "Red mullet" of the settlers.
No. 46.—ENOPLOSUS ARMATUS. Cuv. et Val. 2, p. 133, pl. 20.—Native name, KARLOCK. Speared by a native, June 1841. Inhabits rocky shores.
No. 2.—BERYX LINEATUS, C. and V. 3, p. 226.—Native name, CHETONG. Red Snapper, or Tide-fisher of the sealers. Very common in the bays of rocky shores. "Rays, D. 5-14; A. 4-13; P. 12; V. 1-7."
No. 59.—SPHYROENA.—Native name, KORDONG. "Rays, D. 5, 1-9; A. 11; P. 13; V. 1-5."
The "Common Baracoota" is found off the whole coast of New Holland, but the KORDONG seems to be peculiar to Western Australia. It comes into the shallow bays in summer; and being a sluggish fish, is easily speared by the natives, who esteem it to be excellent food. It will lay for a minute looking with indifference at its enemy, while he poises the fatal and unerring spear. Specimen caught in a net, December, 1841.
No. 25.—SILLAGO.—Native name, MURDAR. "Rock whiting" of the settlers. "Rays, D. 10-23; A. 18; P. 13; A. 5."
Inhabits rocky shores and deep water. Caught by the seine, 3rd April, 1841. Good eating.
No. 11.—SILLAGO PUNCTATA, C. et V 3, P. 413.—Native name MURDAR. "Common whiting" of the settlers. "Rays, D. 12, 1-26; A. 22; P. 11; V. 5."
Inhabits shallow sandy bays abundantly, and is much admired for the delicacy of its flesh, but it is dryer eating than the whiting of Europe.
No. 55.—CORVINA?—Native name T'CHARK or T'CHYARK. King-fish of the sealers. "Rays, D. 9—1-27; A. 1-7; P. 15; V. 1-5."
Teeth strong and sharp. Grows to a great size; as I am informed by the natives, that they often spear individuals weighing sixty or seventy pounds. This fish enters the fresh-water periodically, like the Salmon of Europe, to spawn, and it is the only fish in this country which I have distinctly made out to do so. It is tolerably good eating. The specimen was caught at the mouth of Oyster Harbour by a hook, on the 30th August, 1841. (This may be the adult of the CORVINA KUHLII of the HISTOIRE DES POISSONS, 5. p. 121.)
No. 19.—CENTROPRISTES TRUTTA. SCIAENA TRUTTA, G. Foster, Icon. 210. (vide Ichth. of Ereb. and Terror, p. 30.)—Native name KING-NURRIE, or IINAGUR. "Salmon" of the sealers. Pectorals yellow or orange coloured, with dark bases; scales faintly fan-streaked; last rays of dorsal and anal elongated. Faint oblong, orange-coloured spots on the sides, not in vertical rows. "Rays, D. 9-16; A. 2-10; P. 16." Eye remarkably brilliant. Good eating in the summer time, but far inferior to the SALMO SALAR. It congregates in vast shoals, and pursues the fry of other fishes in shallow bays, but never enters fresh-water. It is often taken of from seven to ten pounds weight. It affords excellent sport to the angler. The specimen was caught by the hook from my own door on the 4th May, 1841.
No. 3.—CENTROPRISTES (CIRRIPIS) GEORGIANUS. C. et V. 7. p. 451. Jenyn's Zool. of Beagle, p. 13.—Native name WARRAGUIT. "Herring" of the settlers. Rays, D. 9-14; A. 3-10; etc.
Inhabits rocky shores, and is taken in the summer, by net on sandy beaches. Specimen caught by the hook, on the 27th March, 1841.
No. 23.—SERRANUS? vel CAPRODON (Schlegel.) aut PLECTROPOMA.—Native name TANG or TAA (It bites.) The "Perch" of the Sealers. "Rays, D. 10-24; A. 2-9; P. 14; V. 1-5."