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Produced by Col Choat and Colin Beck





Production Notes: - Words in italics have been capitalised.
- 45 illustrations appeared in the original text,
published in 1898. They have not been reproduced
in this etext. (See below for list)
- A HTML version of this etext is available from Project
Gutenberg which includes many of the illustrations



SPINIFEX AND SAND by DAVID W CARNEGIE (1871-1900)

A NARRATIVE OF FIVE YEARS' PIONEERING AND EXPLORATION
IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA



TO
MY MOTHER





INTRODUCTION

"An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told."

The following pages profess to be no more than a faithful narrative of
five years spent on the goldfields and in the far interior of Western
Australia. Any one looking for stirring adventures, hairbreadth escapes
from wild animals and men, will be disappointed. In the Australian Bush
the traveller has only Nature to war against - over him hangs always the
chance of death from thirst, and sometimes from the attacks of hostile
aboriginals; he has no spice of adventure, no record heads of rare game,
no exciting escapades with dangerous beasts, to spur him on; no beautiful
scenery, broad lakes, or winding rivers to make life pleasant for him.
The unbroken monotony of an arid, uninteresting country has to be faced.
Nature everywhere demands his toil. Unless he has within him impulses that
give him courage to go on, he will soon return; for he will find nothing
in his surroundings to act as an incentive to tempt him further.

I trust my readers will be able to glean a little knowledge of the
hardships and dangers that beset the paths of Australian pioneers, and
will learn something of the trials and difficulties encountered by a
prospector, recognising that he is often inspired by some higher feeling
than the mere "lust of gold."

Wherever possible, I have endeavoured to add interest to my own
experiences by recounting those of other travellers; and, by studying the
few books that touch upon such matters to explain any points in connection
with the aboriginals that from my own knowledge I am unable to do. I owe
several interesting details to the "Report on the Work of the Horn
Scientific Expedition to Central Australia," and to "Ethnological Studies
among the North-West Central Queensland Aboriginals," by Walter E. Roth.
For the identification of the few geological specimens brought in by me,
I am indebted to the Government Geologist of the Mines Department,
Perth, W.A., and to Mr. W. Botting Hemsley, through the courtesy of the
Director of the Royal Gardens, Kew, for the identification of the plants.

I also owe many thanks to my friend Mr. J. F. Cornish, who has taken so
much trouble in correcting the proofs of my MSS.





CONTENTS




PART I


EARLY DAYS IN COOLGARDIE

CHAPTER I EARLY DAYS IN THE COLONY
CHAPTER II "HARD UP"
CHAPTER III A MINER ON BAYLEY'S



PART II


FIRST PROSPECTING EXPEDITION

CHAPTER I THE RUSH TO KURNALPI - WE REACH QUEEN VICTORIA SPRING
CHAPTER II IN UNKNOWN COUNTRY
CHAPTER III FROM MOUNT SHENTON TO MOUNT MARGARET



PART III

SECOND PROSPECTING EXPEDITION


CHAPTER I THE JOYS OF PORTABLE CONDENSERS
CHAPTER II GRANITE ROCKS, "NAMMA HOLES," AND "SOAKS"
CHAPTER III A FRESH START
CHAPTER IV A CAMEL FIGHT
CHAPTER V GOLD AT LAKE DARLOT
CHATTER VI ALONE IN THE BUSH
CHAPTER VII SALE OF MINE



PART IV

MINING


CHAPTER I QUARTZ REEFING AND DRY-BLOWING



PART V

THE OUTWARD JOURNEY


CHAPTER I PREVIOUS EXPLORERS IN THE INTERIOR OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
CHAPTER II MEMBERS AND EQUIPMENT OF EXPEDITION
CHAPTER III THE JOURNEY BEGINS
CHAPTER IV WE ENTER THE DESERT
CHAPTER V WATER AT LAST
CHAPTER VI WOODHOUSE LAGOON
CHAPTER VII THE GREAT UNDULATING DESERT OF GRAVEL
CHAPTER VIII A DESERT TRIBE
CHAPTER IX DR. LEICHARDT'S LOST EXPEDITION
CHAPTER X THE DESERT OF PARALLEL SAND-RIDGES
CHAPTER XI FROM FAMILY WELL TO HELENA SPRING
CHAPTER XII HELENA SPRING
CHAPTER XIII FROM HELENA SPRING TO THE SOUTHESK TABLELANDS.
CHAPTER XIV DEATH OF STANSMORE
CHAPTER XV WELLS EXPLORING EXPEDITION
CHAPTER XVI KIMBERLEY
CHAPTER XVII ABORIGINALS AT HALL'S CREEK
CHAPTER XVIII PREPARATIONS FOR THE RETURN JOURNEY
APPENDIX
TO PART V SOME NATIVE WEAPONS AND CEREMONIAL IMPLEMENTS


PART VI

THE JOURNEY HOME


CHAPTER I RETURN JOURNEY BEGINS
CHAPTER II STURT CREEK AND "GREGORY'S SALT SEA"
CHAPTER III OUR CAMP ON THE "SALT SEA"
CHAPTER IV DESERT ONCE MORE
CHAPTER V STANSMORE RANGE TO LAKE MACDONALD
CHAPTER VI LAKE MACDONALD TO THE DEEP ROCK-HOLES
CHAPTER VII THE LAST OF THE RIDGES OF DRIFT SAND
CHAPTER VIII WOODHOUSE LAGOON REVISITED
CHAPTER IX ACROSS LAKE WELLS TO LAKE DARLOT
CHAPTER X THE END OF THE EXPEDITION


APPENDIX



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

(45 illustrations appeared in the original text, published in 1898.
They have not been reproduced in this etext.)

HON. D. W. CARNEGIE
JARRAH FOREST, WEST AUSTRALIA
GENERAL STORE AND POST-OFFICE, COOLGARDIE, 1892
THE FIRST HOTEL AT COOLGARDIE
THE "GOLD ESCORT"
GRASS TREES, NEAR PERTH
DEATH OF "TOMMY"
FRESH MEAT AT LAST
BAYLEY STREET, COOLGARDIE, 1894
CONDENSING WATER ON A SALT LAKE
FEVER-STRICKEN AND ALONE
MINER'S RIGHT
TYPICAL SANDSTONE GORGE
CROSSING A SALT LAKE
ENTRANCE TO EMPRESS SPRING
AT WORK IN THE CAVE, EMPRESS SPRING
ALEXANDER SPRING
WOODHOUSE LAGOON
A BUCK AND HIS GINS IN CAMP AT FAMILY WELL
CRESTING A SAND-RIDGE
HELENA SPRING
THE ONLY SPECIMEN OF DESERT ARCHITECTURE
THE MAD BUCK
SOUTHESK TABLELANDS
A NATIVE HUNTING PARTY
PLAN OF SAND-RIDGES
EXAGGERATED SECTION OF THE SAND-RIDGES
CHARLES W. STANSMORE
NATIVE PREPARING FOR THE EMU DANCE
SPEARS
TOMAHAWKS
BOOMERANGS
CLUBS AND THROWING-STICKS
SHIELDS
QUARTZ KNIFE
CEREMONIAL STICKS
RAIN-MAKING BOARDS
MESSAGE STICKS
GROUP OF EXPLORERS
JUST IN TIME
A WILD ESCORT OF NEARLY ONE HUNDRED MEN
ESTABLISHING FRIENDLY RELATIONS
THE TAIL-END OF A MISERABLE CARAVAN
A KARRI TIMBER TRAIN
A PEARL SHELL STATION, BROOME, N.W. AUSTRALIA




* * * * * * * * * *





PART I EARLY DAYS IN COOLGARDIE




CHAPTER I



EARLY DAYS IN THE COLONY


In the month of September, 1892, Lord Percy Douglas (now Lord Douglas of
Hawick) and I, found ourselves steaming into King George's Sound - that
magnificent harbour on the south-west coast of Western Australia - building
castles in the air, discussing our prospects, and making rapid and vast
imaginary fortunes in the gold-mines of that newly-discovered land of
Ophir. Coolgardie, a district then unnamed, had been discovered, and
Arthur Bayley, a persevering and lucky prospector, had returned to
civilised parts from the "bush," his packhorses loaded with golden
specimens from the famous mine which bears his name. I suppose the
fortunate find of Bayley and his mate, Ford, has turned the course of
events in the lives of many tens of thousands of people, and yet, as he
jogged along the track from Gnarlbine Rock to Southern Cross, I daresay
his thoughts reverted to his own life, and the good time before him,
rather than to moralising on the probable effect of his discovery on
others.

We spent as little time as possible at Albany, or, I should say, made our
stay as short as was permitted, for in those days the convenience of the
passenger was thought little of, in comparison with the encouragement of
local industries, so that mails and travellers alike were forced to remain
at least one night in Albany by the arrangement of the train service,
greatly to the benefit of the hotel-keepers.

We were somewhat surprised to see the landlord's daughters waiting at
table. They were such tremendously smart and icy young ladies that at
first we were likely to mistake them for guests; and even when sure of
their identity we were too nervous to ask for anything so vulgar as a pot
of beer, or to expect them to change our plates.

Between Albany and Perth the country is not at all interesting being for
the most part flat, scrubby, and sandy, though here and there are rich
farming and agricultural districts. Arrived at Perth we found ourselves a
source of great interest to the inhabitants, inasmuch as we announced our
intention of making our way to the goldfields, while we had neither the
means nor apparently the capability of getting there. Though treated with
great hospitality, we found it almost impossible to get any information
or assistance, all our inquiries being answered by some scoffing remark,
such as, "Oh, you'll never get there!"

We attended a rather remarkable dinner - given in honour of the Boot, Shoe,
Harness, and Leather trade, at the invitation of a fellow-countryman in
the trade, and enjoyed ourselves immensely; speech-making and
toast-drinking being carried out in the extensive style so customary in
the West. Picture our surprise on receiving a bill for 10s. 6d. next
morning! Our friend of the dinner, kindly put at our disposal a hansom
cab which he owned, but this luxury we declined with thanks, fearing a
repetition of his "bill-by-invitation."

Owing to the extreme kindness of Mr. Robert Smith we were at last enabled
to get under way for the scene of the "rush." Disregarding the many offers
of men willing to guide us along a self-evident track, we started with one
riding and one packhorse each. These and the contents of the pack-bags
represented all our worldly possessions, but in this we might count
ourselves lucky, for many hundreds had to carry their belongings on their
backs - "humping their bluey," as the expression is.

Our road lay through Northam, and the several small farms and settlements
which extend some distance eastward. Very few used this track, the more
popular and direct route being through York, and thence along the
telegraph line to Southern Cross; and indeed we did pass through York,
which thriving little town we left at dusk, and, carrying out our
directions, rode along the telegraph line. Unfortunately we had not been
told that the line split up, one branch going to Northam and the other to
Southern Cross; as often happens in such cases, we took the wrong branch
and travelled well into the night before finding any habitation at which
we could get food and water.

The owner of the house where we finally stopped did not look upon our
visit with pleasure, as we had literally to break into the house before we
could attract any attention. Finding we were not burglars, and having
relieved himself by most vigorous and pictorial language (in the use of
which the teamsters and small farmers are almost without rivals) the owner
showed us his well, and did what he could to make us comfortable. I shall
never forget the great hospitality here along this road, though no doubt
as time went on the settlers could not afford to house hungry travellers
free of cost, and probably made a fair amount of money by selling
provisions and horse-feed to the hundreds of gold-fever patients who were
continually passing.

Southern Cross, which came into existence about the year '90, was a pretty
busy place, being the last outpost of civilisation at the time of our
first acquaintance with it. The now familiar corrugated-iron-built town,
with its streets inches deep in dust under a blazing sun, its incessant
swarms of flies, the clashing of the "stamps" on the mines, and the
general "never-never" appearance of the place, impressed us with feelings
the reverse of pleasant. The building that struck me most was the bank - a
small iron shanty with a hession partition dividing it into office and
living room, the latter a hopeless chaos of cards, candle ends, whiskey
bottles, blankets, safe keys, gold specimens, and cooking utensils. The
bank manager had evidently been entertaining a little party of friends the
previous night, and though its hours had passed, and a new day had dawned,
the party still continued. Since that time it has been my lot to witness
more than one such evening of festivity!

On leaving Southern Cross we travelled with another company of
adventurers, one of whom, Mr. Davies, an old Queensland squatter, was our
partner in several subsequent undertakings.

The monotony of the flat timber-clad country was occasionally relieved by
the occurrence of large isolated hills of bare granite. But for these the
road, except for camels, could never have been kept open; for they
represented our sources of water supply. On the surface of the rocks
numerous holes and indentations are found, which after rain, hold water,
and besides these, around the foot of the outcrops, "soaks," or shallow
wells, are to be found.

What scenes of bitter quarrels these watering-places have witnessed!
The selfish striving, each to help himself, the awful sufferings of man
and beast, horses and camels mad with thirst, and men cursing the country
and themselves, for wasting their lives and strength in it; but they have
witnessed many an act of kindness and self-denial too.

Where the now prosperous and busy town of Coolgardie stands, with its
stone and brick buildings, banks, hotels, and streets of shops, offices,
and dwelling-houses, with a population of some 15,000, at the time of
which I write there stood an open forest of eucalyptus dotted here and
there with the white tents and camps of diggers. A part of the timber had
already been cleared to admit of "dry-blowing" operations - a process
adopted for the separation of gold from alluvial soil in the waterless
parts of Australia.

Desperate hard work this, with the thermometer at 100 degrees in the
shade, with the "dishes" so hot that they had often to be put aside to
cool, with clouds of choking dust, a burning throat, and water at a
shilling to half a crown a gallon! Right enough for the lucky ones
"on gold," and for them not a life of ease! The poor devil with neither
money nor luck, who looked into each dishful of dirt for the wherewithal
to live, and found it not, was indeed scarcely to be envied.

Water at this time was carted by horse-teams in waggons with large tanks
on board, or by camel caravans, from a distance of thirty-six miles, drawn
from a well near a large granite rock. The supply was daily failing, and
washing was out of the question; enough to drink was all one thought of;
two lines of eager men on either side of the track could daily be seen
waiting for these water-carts. What a wild rush ensued when they were
sighted! In a moment they were surrounded and taken by storm, men swarming
on to them like an army of ants. As a rule, eager as we were for water,
a sort of order prevailed, and every man got his gallon water-bag filled
until the supply was exhausted. And generally the owner of the water
received due payment.

About Christmas-time the water-famine was at its height. Notices were
posted by order of the Warden, proclaiming that the road to or from
Coolgardie would soon be closed, as all wells were failing, and advising
men to go down in small parties, and not to rush the waters in a great
crowd. This advice was not taken, and daily scores of men left the
"field," and many were hard put to it to reach Southern Cross. It was a
cruel sight in those thirsty days to see the poor horses wandering about,
mere walking skeletons, deserted by their owners, for strangers were both
unable to give them water, and afraid to put them out of their misery lest
damages should be claimed against them. How long our own supplies would
last was eagerly discussed, as we gathered round the butcher's shop, the
great meeting-place, to which, in the evenings, most of the camp would
come to talk over the affairs of the day.

Postmaster, as well as butcher and storekeeper, was Mr. Benstead,
a kind-hearted, hard-working man, and a good friend to us in our early
struggles. What a wonderful post-office it was too! A proper match for the
so-called coach that brought the mails. A very dilapidated buckboard-buggy
drawn by equally dilapidated horses, used to do the journey from the
Southern Cross to the new fields very nearly as quickly as a loaded waggon
with eight or ten horses! The mail-coach used to carry not only letters,
papers, and gold on the return journey, but passengers, who served the
useful purposes of dragging the carriage through the sand and dust when
the horses collapsed, of hunting up the team in the mornings, and of
lightening the load by walking. For this exceedingly comfortable journey
they had the pleasure of paying at least five pounds. It was no uncommon
sight at some tank or rock on the road, to see the mail-coach standing
alone in its glory, deserted by driver and passengers alike. Of these some
would be horse-hunting, and the rest tramping ahead in hope of being
caught up by the coach. There would often be on board many hundred pounds'
worth of gold, sent down by the diggers to be banked, or forwarded to
their families; yet no instance of robbing the mail occurred. The sort of
gentry from whom bushrangers and thieves are made, had not yet found their
way to the rush.

Many banks were failing at that time, and men anxiously awaited the
arrival of news. The teamsters, with their heavy drays, would be eagerly
questioned as to where they had passed Her Majesty's mail, and as to the
probability of its arrival within the next week or so! The distribution of
letters did not follow this happy event with great rapidity. Volunteers
had to be called in to sort the delivery, the papers were thrown into a
heap in the road, and all anxious for news were politely requested to help
themselves. Several illustrated periodicals were regularly sent me from
home, as I learnt afterwards, but I never had the luck to drop across my
own paper!

On mail day, the date of which was most uncertain as the coach journeys
soon overlapped, there was always a lengthy, well-attended "roll-up" at
the Store. Here we first made acquaintance with Messrs. Browne and Lyon,
then negotiating for the purchase of Bayley's fabulous mine of gold.
No account of the richness of this claim at that time could be too
extravagant to be true; for surely such a solid mass of gold was never
seen before, as met the eye in the surface workings.

Messrs. Browne and Lyon had at their camp a small black-boy whom they
tried in vain to tame. He stood a good deal of misplaced kindness, and
even wore clothes without complaint; but he could not bear having his hair
cut, and so ran away to the bush. He belonged to the wandering tribe that
daily visited the camp - a tribe of wretched famine-stricken "blacks,"
whose natural hideousness and filthy appearance were intensified by the
dirty rags with which they made shift to cover their bodies. I should
never have conceived it possible that such living skeletons could exist.
Without begging from the diggers I fail to see how they could have lived,
for not a living thing was to be found in the bush, save an occasional
iguana and "bardies,*" and, as I have said, all known waters within
available distance of Coolgardie were dry, or nearly so.

[* "Bardies" are large white grubs - three or four inches long - which the
natives dig out from the roots of a certain shrub. When baked on
wood-ashes they are said to be excellent eating. The natives, however,
prefer them raw, and, having twisted off the heads, eat them with evident
relish.]

Benstead had managed to bring up a few sheep from the coast, which the
"gins," or women, used to tend. The native camp was near the
slaughter-yard, and it used to be an interesting and charming sight to see
these wild children of the wilderness, fighting with their mongrel dogs
for the possession of the offal thrown away by the butcher. If successful
in gaining this prize they were not long in disposing of it, cooking
evidently being considered a waste of time. A famished "black-fellow"
after a heavy meal used to remind me of pictures of the boa-constrictor
who has swallowed an ox, and is resting in satisfied peace to gorge.

The appeal of "Gib it damper" or "Gib it gabbi" (water), was seldom made
in vain, and hardly a day passed but what one was visited by these silent,
starving shadows. In appreciation no doubt of the kindness shown them,
some of the tribe volunteered to find "gabbi" for the white-fellow in the
roots of a certain gum-tree. Their offer was accepted, and soon a band of
unhappy-looking miners was seen returning. In their hands they carried
short pieces of the root, which they sucked vigorously; some got a little
moisture, and some did not, but however unequal their success in this
respect they were all alike in another, for every man vomited freely. This
means of obtaining a water supply never became popular. No doubt a little
moisture can be coaxed from the roots of certain gums, but it would seem
that it needs the stomach of a black-fellow to derive any benefit from it.

Though I cannot say that I studied the manners and customs of the
aboriginals at that time, the description, none the worse for being old,
given to savages of another land would fit them admirably - "Manners none,
customs beastly."




CHAPTER II



"HARD UP"


During that drought-stricken Christmas-time my mate was down at the
"Cross," trying to carry through some business by which our coffers might
be replenished; for work how we would on alluvial or quartz reefs, no gold
could we find. That we worked with a will, the remark made to me by an old
fossicker will go to show. After watching me "belting away" at a solid
mass of quartz for some time without speaking, "Which," said he, "is the
hammer-headed end of your pick?" Then shaking his head, "Ah! I could guess
you were a Scotchman - brute force and blind ignorance!" He then proceeded
to show me how to do twice the amount of work at half the expenditure of
labour. I never remember a real digger who was not ready to help one, both
with advice and in practice, and I never experienced that "greening" of
new chums which is a prominent feature of most novels that deal with
Australian life.

In the absence of Lord Douglas, an old horse-artilleryman, Richardson by
name, was my usual comrade. A splendid fellow he was too, and one of the
few to be rewarded for his dogged perseverance and work. In a pitiable
state the poor man was when first we met, half dead from dysentery, camped
all alone under a sheet of coarse calico. Emaciated from sickness, he was
unable to follow his horses, which had wandered in search of food and
water, though they constituted his only earthly possession. How he, and
many another I could mention, survived, I cannot think. But if a man
declines to die, and fights for life, he is hard to kill!

Amongst the prospectors it was customary for one mate to look after the
horses, and pack water to the others who worked. These men, of course,
knew several sources unknown to the general public. It was from one of
them that we learnt of the existence of a small soak some thirteen miles
from Coolgardie. Seeing no hope of rain, and no prospect of being able to
stop longer at Coolgardie, Mr. Davies, who camped near us, and I, decided
to make our way to this soak, and wait for better or worse times. Taking
the only horse which remained to us, and what few provisions we had, we
changed our residence from the dust-swept flats of Coolgardie to the
silent bush, where we set up a little hut of boughs, and awaited the
course of events. Sheltered from the sun's burning rays by our house, so
low that it could only be entered on hands and knees, for we had neither
time nor strength to build a spacious structure, and buoyed up by the
entrancement of reading "The Adventures of a Lady's Maid," kindly lent by
a fellow-digger, we did our best to spend a "Happy Christmas."

Somehow, the climate and surroundings seemed singularly inappropriate;
dust could not be transformed, even in imagination, into snow, nor heat
into frost, any more easily than we could turn dried apples into roast
beef and plum-pudding. Excellent food as dried fruit is, yet it is apt
to become monotonous when it must do duty for breakfast, dinner, and tea!
Such was our scanty fare; nevertheless we managed to keen up the
appearance of being quite festive and happy.

Having spread the table - that is, swept the floor clear of ants and other
homely insects - and laid out the feast, I rose to my knees and proposed
the health of my old friend and comrade Mr. Davies, wished him the
compliments of the season, and expressed a hope that we should never spend
a worse Christmas. The toast was received with cheers and honoured in weak



Online LibraryDavid Wynford CarnegieSpinifex and Sand → online text (page 1 of 29)