Excerpts – DDD

Excerpts from Desert, Drought and Death : The Border Exploration Expedition of 1901.

Lake Wells is almost in the centre of West Australia and it is called after Wells the explorer who discovered it. It is in shape like a horseshoe and is probably a hundred miles long and from five to twenty miles across. Such lakes as these are dry on top and have a stiff gypsum and salty clay bed. Crossing them is very trying on the eyes, especially when the sun is shining on the white crystals. Water is found by digging through the clay from three to six feet and is so dense it will not dissolve more salts.

Page 11


To roast wild fowl or for that matter anything in the way of meat  to my mind it is best cooked in an earthern oven. The mode of procedure is to dig a hole in the earth (clayey ground if possible), large enough for the meat, the light a fire in it, place stones in it and keep it burning from one to two hours according to the dryness of the ground or the size of the joint. The oven will then have a white appearance. Pieces of wood or sticks, long enough to reach over the the hole should be in readiness. The remove the fire, putting back the stones and place the meat on top of them. Then pass the sticks over the top of the hole, put a cloth or bag of sufficient size to cover the top and cover this over with dirt that came out from the digging of the hole. The meat should remain in from an hour to two hours according to the size. A turkey weighing say twelve pounds in a well heated oven will be cooked in an hour and a half. The great heat of the oven closes the pores of the outward part of the meat immediately, and all the juice is well retained and unless the oven be considerably overheated there is very little danger of any part of the joint being too much burnt for consumption.

Page 11


It was here that we turned the horses loose to find their own way back; a simple enough thing as we were only a little over a hundred miles from Lake Wells. Had we brought them on with us as events afterwards proved, we would have had to watch them slowly die of thirst or shoot them. Next year when again in Coolgardie I made enquiries about them from prospectors in the Erlistoun District, but they had not seen or heard of them, and it is possible that they fell into the hands of the natives and were killed.

Page 19


… it was pretty sight to see the bronze-wing pigeons coming into water from all directions. We shot about twenty of them and could have shot many more but we had no wish to kill more than we needed for food. They were fat plump birds and I cannot imagine any food more delicious than bronze-wing and bacon, grilled on the coals.

Page 26


Poor Shanawaz’s mind, however, was becoming gradually unhinged, though none of us realised the fact.

Page 30


Care is needed with a soak in clearing it out, that is in removing the debris or earth, for some clay or earth may be keeping a crack in the rock water tight. Sometimes in removing the earth the water may percolate off in some unknown direction and so get right away.
Not knowing the nature of the soak we were very careful with every drop of water, nor did we attempt at first to clean any earth out, but kept on dipping it with a pannikin into the billy until we had our kegs filled. We then removed about two buckets of sand from the bottom of the soak, and gave our poor camels a drink, and they did drink – I never thought they would be satisfied. … A man needs to have in a like situation to in any way realise what finding water in the desert means to the explorer. From the time he leaves civilization till he returns to it again, the one thought in his mind is water! water! water! He may have gone out for gold but he forgets even that in the persistent need of water.

Page 42


The rain water percolating through the rocks, made its way into our cave and flooded us out saturating all our blankets before we awoke to the fact. The morning brought a fine day, that is the rain had gone but it was very close and sultry. In the afternoon we had a severe thunder storm. Thunder and lightning, and the rain falling down in torrents for a couple of hours. We will have to sit up tonight owing to our blankets being wet.

Page 59