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Grumpier Old Men

"I don't believe it !" - Victor M.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 3:08 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 06, 2014
Posts: 29
Location: Bunya Mountains
Well ... I am not really a grump, my norm is optimism. Don't know if this will be canned by the mods or not. I have posted it on another australian forum, a bushcraft forum ... you know, where the Bear Grylls type head off into the wilderness with a 52-blade pocket knife and a packet of pork scratchings.

It was appreciated, tho it is not in that super-tough-league. My mate and I usually head outback for a week or two every year or so, just camping and sleeping where we can a enjoying a motel about every third day (we're both 60). Restocking supplies as well. This trip our 'theme' was to follow in Sturt's footsteps and so we downloaded his diary off the internet. here is what we found.

Hope it lightens the grumps a bit ... hahaa
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Sturt was the first white explorer to travel to inland Australia. He believed there was an inland sea in the heart of Australia. He was right, but he was 60 million years too late.

His expedition party suffered great hardship and the second in command, Poole, died. They were trapped for 6-7 months in Sturt's Stony Desert, unable to break away from a single remaining billabong (a waterhole in a dry creek bed), and the billabong was drying out.

Here is some of their story.

The Stony Desert is covered in vast Gibber plains. Gibber is the Aboriginal word for 'fist sized throwing rock'. Animals will not walk on these plains unless forced, and to walk one or two kilometres is agony, I tried it.



Quote:
Quote Originally Posted by Sturt's Diary
..The horses were limping and the stones wore down the hooves of the cattle and the sheep.



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In the stony desert, where there are no gibber plains there are just bigger stones. If you find a place to stand where there are no stones at all, then there are Bullock Head Burrs. These are small seed pods with 5-6 hypodermic needle points sticking out, and due to the wonders of evolution in miniature, which ever way they land they always have one needle sticking straight up. Their motto is simple ... 'I may be here a long time, and nothing may happen, but if it does I'm ready'.

They can drive up to 10mm into you and they inject a toxin that stings and the next day causes your arm or leg to throb. If your not careful when you pull them out the tips break off and the toxin works for days. (This is evolution at its most amazing. No doubt the animal picks up the burr, and after a while the toxin can be felt and the animal tries to scrub it off.It falls in a new animal feeding ground. The seed pod has achieved its aim)

So, all in all, Sturt's stony desert is not right up there with the top tourists spots like Ayer's rock and the Tananmi.

Into this desert Sturt took the following:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sturt's Diary
....so that the expedition was now complete, and mustered in its full force for the first time, and consisted as follows of officers, men, and animals-

Captain Sturt, LEADER.
Mr. James Poole, ASSISTANT.
Mr. John Harris Browne, SURGEON.
Mr. M'Dougall Stuart, DRAFTSMAN.
Mr. Louis Piesse, STOREKEEPER.
Daniel Brock, COLLECTOR.
George Davenport, Joseph Cowley, SERVANTS
Robert Flood, STOCKMAN.
David Morgan, WITH HORSES.
Hugh Foulkes, John Jones, Turpin, BULLOCK DRIVERS
William Lewis, SAILOR
John Mack, John Kerby, WITH SHEEP.

11 horses; 30 bullocks; 1 boat and boat carriage; 1 horse dray; 1 spring cart; 3 drays. 200 sheep; 4 kangaroo dogs; 2 sheep dogs.



Some of these men were colonial prisoners of the Crown, earning their freedom. Please note the boat. Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday Sun. This party took a boat, weighing near a tonne, into the heart of the driest continent on earth in the hope of sailing on an inland sea !!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sturt's Diary
.....which I had vainly hoped would have ploughed the waters of a central sea.


One hardly knows whether to laugh or to cry.

The rest of their tale is heart wrenching. They were hard tough men but they were in a desperate situation, attacked by scurvy, and in temperatures that reached 57 C (135 F). The thermometers burst. The last billabong on Preservation creek was evaporating. They had to keep their candles and ink buried in the creek bank to prevent them evaporating.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sturt's Diary
...I had violent headaches, unusual pains in my joints, and a coppery taste in my mouth.These symptoms I attributed to having slept so frequently on the hard ground and in the beds of creeks, and it was only when my mouth became sore, and my gums spongy, that I felt it necessary to trouble Mr. Browne, who at once told me that I was labouring under an attack of scurvy, and I regretted to learn from him that both he and Mr. Poole were similarly affected, but they hoped I had hitherto escaped............

We regretted to find that Mr. Poole was seriously indisposed. His muscles were now attacked and he was suffering great pain .................

Mr. Poole had gradually become worse and worse, and was now wholly confined to his bed, unable to stir, a melancholy affliction both to himself and us, rendering our detention in that gloomy region still more painful................

Mr. Poole became worse, all his skin along the muscles turned black, and large pieces of spongy flesh hung from the roof of his mouth, which was in such a state that he could hardly eat.


As Poole became worse it was determined to send a return party to Adelaide, at whatever cost or Poole would die. But the return party had not gone far when Poole died.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sturt's Diary
...About seven o'clock p.m. we were surprised by the sudden return of Joseph, from the home returning party; but, still more so at the melancholy nature of the information he had to communicate. Mr. Poole, he said, had breathed his last at three o'clock. ..... About a quarter before three he had risen to take some medicine, but
suddenly observed to Joseph that he thought he was dying, and falling on his back, expired without a struggle.

On the 17th the whole party, which had so lately separated, once more assembled at the Depot. We buried Mr. Poole under a Grevillia that stood close to our underground room; his initials, and the year, are cut in it above the grave, "J. P. 1845," and he now sleeps in the desert.



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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sturt's Diary
... we pitched our tents at the place to which I have led him, and which I shall henceforth call the "Depot," on the 27th of January, 1845. They were not struck again until the 17th of July following.

This ruinous detention paralyzed the efforts and enervated the strength of the expedition, by constitutionally affecting both the men and animals, and depriving them of the elasticity and energy with which they commenced their labours. It was not however until after we had run down every creek in our neighbourhood, and had traversed the country in every direction, that the truth flashed across my mind, and it became evident to me, that we were locked up in the desolate and heated region, into which we had penetrated, as effectually as if we had wintered at the Pole.


It was long indeed ere I could bring myself to believe that so great a misfortune had overtaken us, but so it was. Providence had, in its all wise purposes, guided us to the only spot, in that wide-spread desert, where our wants could have been permanently supplied, but had there stayed our further progress into a region that almost appears to be forbidden ground.


Please note this ... 'It was not however until after we had run down every creek in our neighbourhood, and had traversed the country in every direction, that the truth flashed across my mind ... (they were trapped) ... It was long indeed ere I could bring myself to believe that so great a misfortune had overtaken us'

He calls it misfortune !
And yet, as he set off into this very region the Aboriginal tribal leader, seeing that Sturt would not heed his advice, that he would surely die at this season, had pleaded with him, begged him not to go. At last had physically restrained him, held on to him, held him back .. but Sturt had shook him off. 'Poor wretched starving creatures' Sturt had said in his diary, as he watched them crack Acacia seeds for food, and yet they were getting their Vitamin C and were not the victims of scurvy. Misfortune ?

Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday Sun.

One can only imagine what they thought of Sturt, setting off into the Stony Desert carrying a one tonne boat.

This is 'Depot Glen', the Billabong where Sturt and his men were trapped.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sturt's Diary
...On the 10th, to give a change to the current of my thoughts, and for exercise, I walked down the Depot creek with Mr. Browne, and turning northwards up the main branch when we reached the junction of the two creeks, we continued our ramble for two or three miles. I know not why it was, that, on this occasion more than any other, we should have contemplated the scene around us, unless it was that the peculiar tranquillity of the moment made a greater impression on our minds.

Perhaps the death-like silence of the scene at that moment led us to reflect, whilst gazing on the ravages made by the floods, how fearfully that silence must sometimes be broken by the roar of waters and of winds. Here, as in other places, we observed the trunks of trees swept down from the hills, lodged high in the branches of the trees in the neighbourhood
of the creek, and large accumulations of rubbish lying at their butts, whilst the line of inundation extended so far into the plains that the country must on such occasions have the appearance of an inland sea.

The winds on the other hand had stripped the bark from the trees to windward (a little to the south of west), as if it had been shaved off with an instrument, but during our stay at the Depot we had not experienced any unusual visitation, as a flood really would have been; for any torrent, such as that which it was evident sometimes swells the creek, would have swept us from our ground, since the marks of inundation reached more than a mile beyond our encampment, and the trunk of a large gum-tree was jambed between the branches of one overhanging the creek near us at an altitude exceeding the height of our tents.



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Sturt's Drawing from his diary. My photos.

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more ....


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 3:11 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 06, 2014
Posts: 29
Location: Bunya Mountains
.

And yet, for all the burning heat of the noon day sun ... The Stony desert has its softer, more beautiful moments.

Sunrises & Sunsets

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more ...


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 3:14 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 06, 2014
Posts: 29
Location: Bunya Mountains
Campfires & Campsites (I'm the skinny bastard)

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I built myself a stone-age campfire .. I had a thermal scanner with me .. this fire reached 900 degrees Centigrade. Water boiled in a cast iron teapot (cold) within 90 seconds .. Stone age man knew his business !!

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The moon thru Dust storm .....at night. Campfire is reflecting off the underside of the trees.

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Commodores (Vauxhall ?) go anywhere ... HaaHaa .. (eat ya heart out 4WDrivers)

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Milparinka Courthouse ... abandoned

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Milparinka Pub ... (AFL Grand Final on TV ... hence the crowd !!)

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Tibbooburra and HOT SHOWERS at last .... civilisation after a week on the desert floor ... HaaHaa

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Hope you enjoyed Peoples ...

Greg


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