BLTC Press Titles


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Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)


Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett


Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle


The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting


Australia twice traversed

by Ernest Giles

Excerpt:

It may be strange, but it is no less true, that there is almost as great a difference between the fiscal laws and governments of the various Australian Colonies as between those of foreign States in Europe—the only thing in common being the language and the money of the British Empire. Although, however, they agree to differ amongst themselves, there can be no doubt of the loyalty of the group, as a whole, to their parent nation. I shall go no further into this matter, as, although English enough, it is foreign to my subject. I shall treat more especially of the colony or colonies within whose boundaries my travels led me, and shall begin with South Australia, where my first expedition was conducted.

South Australia includes a vast extent of country called the Northern Territory, which must become in time a separate colony, as it extends from the 26th parallel of latitude, embracing the whole country northwards to the Indian Ocean at the 11th parallel. South Australia possesses one advantage over the other colonies, from the geographical fact of her oblong territory extending, so to speak, exactly in the middle right across the continent from the Southern to the Indian Ocean. The dimensions of the colony are in extreme length over 1800 miles, by a breadth of nearly 700, and almost through the centre of this vast region the South Australian Transcontinental Telegraph line runs from Adelaide, viâ Port Augusta, to Port Darwin.

At the time I undertook my first expedition in 1872, this extensive work had just been completed, and it may be said to divide the continent into halves, which, for the purpose I then had in view, might be termed the explored and the unexplored halves. For several years previous to my taking the field, I had desired to be the first to penetrate into this unknown region, where, for a thousand miles in a straight line, no white man's foot had ever wandered, or, if it had, its owner had never brought it back, nor told the tale. I had ever been a delighted student of the narratives of voyages and discoveries, from Robinson Crusoe to Anson and Cook, and the exploits on land in the brilliant accounts given by Sturt, Mitchell, Eyre, Grey, Leichhardt, and Kennedy, constantly excited my imagination, as my own travels may do that of future rovers, and continually spurred me on to emulate them in the pursuit they had so eminently graced.

My object, as indeed had been Leichhardt's, was to force my way across the thousand miles that lay untrodden and unknown, between the South Australian telegraph line and the settlements upon the Swan River. What hopes I formed, what aspirations came of what might be my fortune, for I trust it will be believed that an explorer may be an imaginative as well as a practical creature, to discover in that unknown space. Here let me remark that the exploration of 1000 miles in Australia is equal to 10,000 in any other part of the earth's surface, always excepting Arctic and Antarctic travels.

There was room for snowy mountains, an inland sea, ancient river, and palmy plain, for races of new kinds of men inhabiting a new and odorous land, for fields of gold and golcondas of gems, for a new flora and a new fauna, and, above all the rest combined, there was room for me! Many well-meaning friends tried to dissuade me altogether, and endeavoured to instil into my mind that what I so ardently wished to attempt was simply deliberate suicide, and to persuade me of the truth of the poetic line, that the sad eye of experience sees beneath youth's radiant glow, so that, like Falstaff, I was only partly consoled by the remark that they hate us youth. But in spite of their experience, and probably on account of youth's radiant glow, I was not to be deterred, however, and at last I met with Baron von Mueller, who, himself an explorer with the two Gregorys, has always had the cause of Australian exploration at heart, and he assisting, I was at length enabled to take the field. Baron Mueller and I had consulted, and it was deemed advisable that I should make a peculiar feature near the Finke river, called Chambers' Pillar, my point of departure for the west. This Pillar is situated in lat. 24° 55' and long. 133° 50', being 1200 miles from Melbourne in a straight line, over which distance Mr. Carmichael, a black boy, and I travelled. In the course of our travels from Melbourne to the starting point, we reached Port Augusta, a seaport though an inland town, at the head of Spencer's Gulf in South Australia, first visited by the Investigator in 1803, and where, a few miles to the eastwards, a fine bold range of mountains runs along for scores of miles and bears the gallant navigator's name. A railway line of 250 miles now connects Port Augusta with Adelaide. To this town was the first section of the Transcontinental telegraph line carried; and it was in those days the last place where I could get stores for my expedition. Various telegraph stations are erected along the line, the average distance between each being from 150 to 200 miles. There were eleven stations between Port Augusta and Port Darwin. A railway is now completed as far as the Peake Telegraph Station, about 450 miles north-westwards from Port Augusta

along the telegraph line towards Port Darwin, to which it will no doubt be carried before many years elapse.

From Port Augusta the Flinders range runs almost northerly for nearly 200 miles, throwing out numerous creeks,* through rocky pine-clad glens and gorges, these all emptying, in times of flood, into the salt lake Torrens, that peculiar depression which baffled Eyre in 1840-1. Captain Frome, the Surveyor-General of the Colony, dispelled the old horse-shoe-shaped illusion of this feature, and discovered that there were several similar features instead of one. As far as the Flinders range extends northwards, the water supply of the traveller in that region is obtained from its watercourses. The country beyond, where this long range falls off, continues an extensive open stony plateau or plain, occasionally intersected with watercourses, the course of the line of road being west of north. Most of these watercourses on the plains fall into Lake Eyre, another and more northerly salt depression. A curious limestone formation now occurs, and for some hundreds of miles the whole country is open and studded with what are called mound-springs. These are usually about fifty feet high, and ornamented on the summit with clumps of tall reeds or bulrushes. These mounds are natural artesian wells, through which the water, forced up from below, gushes out over the tops to the level ground, where it forms little water - channels at which sheep and cattle can water. Some of these mounds have miniature lakes on their summits, where people might bathe. The most perfect mound is called the Blanche Cup, in latitude about 29° 20', and longitude 136° 40'.


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